Surveillance, Transparency and the Hidden in Contemporary Culture
Edited By Henriette Steiner and Kristin Veel
11 Cool Critique Versus Hot Spectatorship: Jelinek/Haneke’s Voyeur around Vienna, a Return
Some months after Elfriede Jelinek won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2004, a member of the Swedish Academy that awards the prize resigned. The quality for which the prize was granted, Jelinek’s skill in ‘revealing the absurdity of society’s clichés and their subjugating power’,1 was also the criterion upon which Knut Ahnlund resigned, writing to the Svenska Dagbladet that Jelinek’s uncompromisingly explicit prose represented no less than ‘violent pornography’.2 As inaccurate as Ahnlund’s comment was, his reference to pornography – that most notorious medium of ‘making-visible’ – nonetheless earns it a critical return in this chapter, which is concerned with the representation of voyeurism in Jelinek’s novel of 1983, Die Klavierspielerin (The Piano Teacher), and in Michael Haneke’s prize-winning movie adaptation of the novel, La Pianiste (The Piano Teacher) of 2001. Taking my lead from episodes where pornography proper features as an object of the attention of their shared protagonist, Erika Kohut, I revisit these core works of recent Austrian literary and visual culture in the company of some of the most respected scholarship on pornography from the 1980s to the present day. My aim here is to demonstrate how pornography’s powerful visuals – and the range of responses, both hot and cool, they can elicit – offer a challenging resource for reflection on broader contemporary practices of spectatorship, and of critique.
← 223 | 224 → In Angela Carter’s definition, pornography is ‘art with work to do’.3 One of the most instrumental visual genres, pornography is pornography when it...
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