Faculty Bookshelf

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.