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“The Redemptive Power of the Face: Beatrice (Portinari) to Bérénice (Bejo)”

Jaeger Image 140 x 140 
Public Lecture Details:

"The Redemptive Power of the Face: Beatrice (Portinari) to Bérénice (Bejo)"

Delivered by:
Professor C. Stephen Jaeger
University of Illinois, Urbana / Champaign

Date and Time:
Wednesday, 5 December 2012, 6.00pm - 7.00pm

Theatre A
Elisabeth Murdoch Building
The University of Melbourne

Admission is free and open to the public.
Bookings are requested.
Seating is limited.
An Auslan Interpreter will be available at this lecture.

To register visit:

For further information please contact
Jessica Scott
or phone 03 8344 5152.

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Mainstream criticism of "The Artist" credits its success but denies its substance. The extraordinary popularity and emotional impact of this film on the viewer comes not only from style and technique, but from the charismatic force and the redeeming role of its female character. This effect operates under the radar of conventional critical categories. This talk will place the face of Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) in a line of descent from other female figures who exercise redemptive force: the virgin Mary, the heroine of certain medieval romances, Beatrice of the Divine Comedy, Petrarch's Laura and Gretchen in Goethe's Faust. The metaphysics of these figures, who represent a Christian tradition, distinguishes them from the heroine of film tradition who also rescues and redeems an imperiled male. In film the redemptive force does not depend on Christian metaphysics but on film aesthetics.

The lack of a critical conception of "the face" inthe humanities is a hindrance to understanding the phenomena of glamour and charisma in cinema. Sociologists and anthropologists have such a conception in the idea of "face" adapted from East Asian cultures. The present talk proposes an approach to hyperrealist representations of character via the concepts of charisma and aura.

C. Stephen Jaeger is Gutgsell Professor Emeritus in the departments of German, Comparative Literature and Medieval Studies at University of Illinois, Urbana/ Champaign. He has taught in various areas of the humanities and cinema studies. His study of the culture of cathedral schools and secular courts,The Envy of Angels(1994) won the Jacques Barzun prize for cultural studies of the American Philosophical Society. His most recent book is titledEnchantment: On Charisma and the Sublime in the Arts of the West(2012).