Raymond Roussel's Freeze-Frame Panorama
This chapter provides a close reading of Raymond Roussel's verse poem “La Vue” (1902). A two-thousand-line long epic describing the microphotograph of a beach scene, it represents a tour de force in a new kind of ekphrasis in the wake of cinema. The chapter argues that Roussel's poem is unable and unwilling to dispel the moving images everywhere suggested by the impossible and imaginary 360-degree still photograph. That is to say, after cinema any literary description of a photo takes place within the episteme of the photo-cinematic difference. This is evidenced by techniques specific to cinema present in the poem such as eye-line matching and imaginary zoom-like magnification. The poem is thus cinepoetic, and a literal inversion of the famous notion of early New Wave theoretician Alexandre Astruc: the camera-pen. In a second part, the chapter takes Michel Foucault's book on Roussel to task for pointedly neutralizing the cinepoetics of “La Vue.” It glosses the stakes of this intervention through Foucault's devising the notion of ‘dispositif’ (apparatus) in this book, Death and the Labyrinth, which he published in tandem with and as literary counterpart to Birth of the Clinic.
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