The Writer’s Eye

When we see something, we are also not-seeing other things. Good writers see and make seen things others don’t.

Defamiliarization (a.k.a. [kind of] the distancing effect) and the counterfactual are the writer’s/thinker’s friends. On the model of cinematography:

  • zoom in = “no ideas but in things,” “the devil is in the details” — the close-up, the bug’s-eye view

  • zoom out = “always historicize,” “context is all” — the long shot, the bird’s-eye view

  • pan = look elsewhere — the pan, the view from the corner of the eye

  • montage = look again, a.k.a. the duck-rabbit — the match- or jump-cut, the blink

Of course, artists are just practising something we’re all capable of, pace Mr Munch . . .

Edvard Munch, Angst (1894). Oil on canvas, 94 x 73 cm. Munch Museum, Oslo, Norway.

And again . . .

Edvard Munch, Angst (Paris: Vollard, 1896). Lithograph, painted in color. 41.4 x 39.1 cm. Munch Museum, Oslo, Norway.


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