Dienst, Richard

Dienst, Richard

Seeing from Scratch

  • Published Date: Caboose, 2020

Seeing From Scratch book cover

Taking as his starting point fifteen characteristically penetrating epigrams by Jean-Luc Godard, Richard Dienst invites us to trace a new path through some of the fundamental questions of cinema. Godard has never stopped offering lessons about seeing and thinking, always insisting that we have to learn how to start over. By starting over ‘from scratch’, Godard challenges us to rethink our ideas about embodied perception, material form and the politics of making images.

Less a commentary on Godard’s oeuvre than an outline of a Godardian pedagogy, Seeing from Scratch offers a theoretical exercise book for students, teachers and practitioners alike, pursuing unexpectedly far-reaching ways to think through images. Along the way we encounter, in this brief, accessible essay, ideal for classroom use, a wide range of thinkers whose ideas are put to practical use working through the intellectual and aesthetic questions and challenges Godard’s epigrams suggest. Readers are thus introduced to some of the essential currents in canonical and contemporary thinking on the image, from Kant to Klee, Reverdy to Rancière and Brecht to Bresson – not in the abstract, but as part of the book's practical approach to intellectual problem solving. In its conversational tone, return to fundaments and practical pedagogical approach, Seeing from Scratch is an essay for the media age in the mould of John Berger's Ways of Seeing from the 1970s: a new way of discussing the theory and practice of images and the film image.

A companion piece, ‘The Postcard Game’, presents a scene from an imaginary classroom, where a stack of postcards—like those found throughout Godard’s work—provokes a spiraling series of questions about images, texts and the manifold pathways of the creative process, providing a template for similar new kinds of pedagogical activity and discussion.


The Bonds of Debt

  • Published Date: Verso, 2011

dienst_2010Indebtedness as the universal condition of modern life. “Man is born free and is everywhere in debt,” declared the Economist in the summer of 2010, a cheeky admission that indebtedness and liberation are once again on the agenda across the globe. In this timely book, cultural critic Richard Dienst examines the current condition of indebtedness from a variety of angles, ranging from the financial crisis and global poverty to media politics and radical theory. Written in an engaging and forceful style, the book draws upon a surprising array of materials, including Obama’s national security strategy, the architecture of Prada stores, press photos of Bono, and a fairy tale told by Karl Marx. 

Moving beyond the dominant pieties and widespread anxieties surrounding the topic, Dienst reconceives indebtedness as a social, economic, and political bond, where the crushing weight of objectified wealth comes face to face with new demands for equality and solidarity.

Reading the Shape of the World: Toward an International Cultural Studies

  • Published Date: Westview Press, 1996

Richard Dienst (Editor)

Reading the Shape of the WorldThis collection takes readers on a journey from the stock market to Islamic law, from the African household to the Soviet apartment, from the nuances of nationalism to the noises of capitalistic theories, introducing the social and historical forces that shape textual practice. The essays connect regional debate and local dynamics to universal global issues.

Still Life in Real Time: Theory after Television

  • Published Date: Duke University Press, 1994

Richard Dienst

Still Life in Real TimeTelevision can be imagined in a number of ways: as a profuse flow of images, as a machine that produces new social relationships, as the last lingering gasp of Western metaphysical thinking, as a stuttering relay system of almost anonymous messages, as a fantastic construction of time. Professor Richard Dienst engages each of these possibilities as he explores the contemporary theories of culture, technology, and media.

A book of theory, Still Life in Real Time will compel the attention of all those with an interest in the nature of the ever present, ever shifting medium of television and its role in the thinking that marks our time.