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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Offscreen Space, From Cinema and Sculpture to Photography, Poetry and Narrative

  • Author(s): Harrison, Thomas
  • et al.
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Public License

This article takes the notion of "offscreen" space in cinema--designating elements of the film's diegesis not represented within the frame of the image, or within the "onscreen" space of the audiovisual sign--and generalizes that offscreen space to other arts, beginning with the David of Michelangelo and moving to the photography of Luigi Ghirri and the cinema of Antonioni and Bertolucci; and from there again to verbal artifacts of Leopardi, Manzoni, Gianni Celati, A. Tabucchi, A. M. Ortese, and Montale.  My thesis is that all arts make use of invisible offscreen space, and most interestingly this space is preter-diegetic, involving the work's unsaid, the space of readerly interpretation, and that of the historical-natural world recast or denaturalized in the work's representational or symbolic contents.  The appeal made by the piece is for criticism to confront more directly these offscreen spaces than it does in typically historicist criticism, so that the artworks' broadest semantic and ontological contexts come explicitly into interpretive purviews.

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