Saturday, January 8, 2011

Maya Deren, "Notes on Ritual and Ordeal"

(Cross-posted from Commonplace)

Originally in Film Culture no. 39; I saw it quoted in the special features of a DVD of her movies.

A ritual is characterized by the de-personalization of the individual. In some cases it is even marked by the use of masks and voluminous garments, so that the performer is virtually anonymous; and it is marked also by the participation of the a homogeneous entity in which the inner patterns of relationship between the elements create, together, a larger movement of the body as a whole. The intent of such a de-personalization is not the destruction of the individual; on the contrary, it enlarges him beyond the personal dimension.


bonobo said...

That's an interesting quote and really makes sense in terms of what I have observed of others participating in ritual. For me, though, it just doesn't work. Rituals always make me feel more individual and alien than usual. For whatever reason, I just can't let go. Maybe it's that I have too rarely participated in rituals that had any significance for me. I guess dancing in clubs during my misspent youth comes the closest to what she's describing. On the whole, I don't see individuals enlarged by ritual. I see them escaping themselves.

Ethan said...

bonobo--dancing in clubs during a misspent youth, in certain contexts, to me certainly counts as being the type of ritual she's describing!

I think I know what you're talking about, and it's a quandary. It's probably important to note that in this quote Deren is sort of being an anthropologist; she's writing not (necessarily) what she feels herself in ritual, but what she observes in people in a society to whom ritual perhaps comes more naturally than it does to us.

Of course, as with any anthropologist (and I say this as the loving spawn of one such creature), Deren may be identifying overmuch with her "subjects," or perhaps projecting on to them, or, if we're less charitable, may be condescending to them or just making shit up about them. Regardless, I think the quote is interesting, and highly applicable to pursuits in my & the Baronette's life these days.

Plus, she made some fucking amazing movies, watch them everyone. They're short.

Ethan said...

I didn't quite make one of my intended points explicit, which is that I see this quote being, in my own life, less of a statement of here-and-now fact and more as one of many possible road maps.

bonobo said...

less of a statement of here-and-now fact and more as one of many possible road maps.

That's how I always take your high-falutin' quotes. I only comment in the same exploratory vein. I certainly haven't made up my mind about this one.

Ethan said...

Yay! Always glad to hear that people are taking things the way I mean them....