In Media Res | Prof Eugenie Brinkema curator’s notes in “Offering it up” | SPECIAL ISSUE: Montage/Composite/Exchange

Published on: April 19, 2024

Curator’s Note

Is there such a thing as sexy editing?

We shall do this question the honor of taking it seriously. Some questions stand naked on the floor, meeting your gaze, and it is the essence of every ethics that I care about that those who take such a risk at any time—beings and questions alike—are owed, in response, at minimum, the respect of being considered. Obviously, to laugh under such circumstances would be barbaric.

So, is there such a thing as sexy editing? No less a theorist than Roland Barthes took this matter as a genuine provocation, writing in his eponymous experiment Roland Barthes par Roland Barthes: “the sexiness of a body (which is not its beauty) inheres in the fact that it is possible to discern (to fantasize) in it the erotic practice to which one subjects it in thought (I conceive of this particular practice, specifically, and of no other).”[1] Those bodies, of whom, one can, for example, imagine them, easily, at ease, looking up, from a floor directly facing, knee joint geometry at give or take ninety degrees, cervical spine tilting, drool running lip to clavicle, a postural assemblage discernable even when said bodies remain upright; even when they are in public, declaiming professionally; even when they are solemn, brow-furrowed, at writing. “Similarly,” he continues, “distinguished within the text, one might say that there are sexy sentences: disturbing by their very isolation as if they possessed the promise which is made to us, the readers, by a linguistic practice, as if we were to seek them out by virtue of a pleasure which knows what it wants [en vertu d’une jouissance qui sait ce qu’elle veut].”[2]

Must we merely, then, hunt down a cinematic grammar distinguished by being possessed of some promise “which is made to us” to conclude that there could be such a thing as sexy editing? But would this not risk an immediate translation to some already exhausted formal discourse? What is a promise made to us, after all, other than one account of style?

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