~ Stefanie Orphal ~

Stefanie Orphal on the aural dimension of poetry film

Stefanie OrphalGerman literary scholar Stefanie Orphal, author of Poesiefilm: Lyrik im audiovisuellen Medium [Poetry Film: Poetry in the Audiovisual Medium], has an essay up at Poetryfilmkanal on “The fascination of hearing poetry films.” Here’s an excerpt:

In recent years there has been an increasing awareness of matters of sound and acoustics, in film studies as well as in other areas. Our understanding of poetry film can benefit a lot from this development. The principal point that we can take from this research is this: Not just on the level of signs, in terms of text-image-relations, but on the level of perception itself sound and image are fused into something completely new, into a third thing that is more than the addition of both elements. While experimental film maker Maya Deren meditated on this effect as early as 1953 on a podium on poetry and the film, contemporary scholars like film theorist Michel Chion have systematically laid out how what we hear, shapes what we believe only to see in the audiovisual experience.

One of Chion’s central terms is ›synchresis‹, by which he describes the psychophysiological phenomenon that lets us attribute discrete events that we see and hear simultaneously to the same source, e. g. the dubbed voice to the actor on screen. Such an effect – also called cross-modal association – is subtly operative in the perception of all audio-film, but it is crucial to the experience of poems in an audiovisual context, because voice over poems are often clearly not part of a diegetic world and what we hear is set apart from what we see creating counterpoint and contrast. But even in the most modernist and experimental efforts of counterpoint or of contrasting sound-image-relations, in our perception both sound and image are always drawn together, contaminating each other as Michel Chion puts it. The effect of this play of forces can be intriguing. What is fascinating about poetry film, to me, is the stunning effect when such a complex combination of elements brings about something new, the impression that something is revealed in the image or in the poem.

Read the rest.

New book on poetry film by Stefanie Orphal

Cover of PoesiefilmeAcademic publisher De Gruyter has just published a 310-page monograph titled Poesiefilm: Lyrik im audiovisuellen Medium [Poetry Film: Poetry in the Audiovisual Medium] by German literary scholar Stefanie Orphal. It’s probably a good thing I don’t know German, because if I did, I’d be feeling pretty frustrated by the astronomical price tag: US$126.00 for either the hardcover or the eBook — or $196.00 for both together! But perhaps one could talk one’s local university library into buying a copy. The publisher’s description is certainly enticing:

Unlike film presentations of narrative or dramatic literature, the audiovisual depiction of poetry has received little attention from researchers. This volume traces the history of the poetry film genre and subjects it to systematic examination. It thereby fills a gap in research on the relations between films and literature but also develops key categories for understanding ways of dealing with poetry in the audiovisual medium.

There’s a brief review (in German) at Fixpoetry. One can also get a sense of Orphal’s research interests from her page at the Friedrich Schlegel Graduate School of Literary Studies:

Stefanie Orphal was born 1982 in Halle (Saale). From 2002 to 2008 she studied literature, media studies, and business studies at the University of Potsdam and Université Paris XII. She completed her Magister Artium (Master of Arts) in 2008 with a thesis on Stimme und Bild im Poetryfilm (Voice and Image in Poetryfilm) in which she analysed the connection and interference of voice and image in short films based on poems. Her research interests include the relation of literature and other media, literary adaptation, and 20th century poetry. From 2009 to 2012 she has been a doctoral candidate at the Friedrich Schlegel Graduate School of Literary studies, where she finished her dissertation “Poetry Film”: On the History, Poetics and Practice of an Intermedial Genre.

In her dissertation project on “poetry film’, she examines the emergence of poetry in film and the poetic dimension of film as an art form. The “tradition of the cinema as poetry”, as Susan Sontag calls it, appears particularly in the avant-garde films of the 1920s and in experimental cinema. At the same time, poetry itself has strived for connections with other media or for recognition as a performance art throughout the 20th century. Futurism, Dada, Beat Poetry, Spoken Word, and Konkrete Poesie feature prominent examples. Unlike literary adaptations, most poetryfilms do not present a ‘translation’ of literary text into filmic text, but keep the poetry present in vocal performance or writing. Her analysis of various poetryfilms therefore concentrates on rhythmic features of film and verse, the sound of voices and spoken language, iconic qualities of writing, and the interplay of poetic and filmic imagery.