How It Feels to Be Run Over: Early Film Accidents by ProQuest


5 The Baudelairean philosophical disposition that Ronell situates on the other side of a life suggests an epistemology of the accident (and the lines of theoretical thinking it inspires) characterized by an improbable experience one might also call spectral or, four decades after Baudelaire's essay, filmic.6 The proliferation of motion pictures and the technologies of early film presented both a discursive antidote (an antiphilosophy) and amplification (a potential for mass reproduction) to this Baudelairean philosophical disposition.7 Early demonstrations of the kinetoscope, the phonoscope, and cinematograph - featuring moving images of people sneezing, kissing, eating, proclaiming^ vous aime, leaving work, and doing serpentine dances - inspired a flurry of enthusiastic descriptions of the essence of this new invention as constituted by its capacity to capture the accidental and by its death-defying effects.8 The Belgian writer and poet Tho Hannon, writing in the 13 November 1895 issue o La Chronique (Brussels) as Hannonyme, defined the cinematograph through its uncanny, democratizing power to archive and immortalize anybody and everybody:

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                                                                      How It Feels
                                                                  to Be Run Over:
                                                              Early Film Accidents

                                                                                   James Leo Cahill

              In “The Essence of Laughter,” Charles Baudelaire asks why we burst
              out laughing when witnessing another’s physical accidents, such as
              the “sight of a man falling on the ice or in the street.”1 The poet
              speculates that such laughter—“an involuntary spasm, comparable
              to a sneeze”—is produced by the collision between competing
              senses of “infinite grandeur” and “infinite misery”; an “unconscious
              pride” born of a sense of superiority, a
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