This essay examines Rebecca West’s treatment of the 1934 newsreel footage of the assassination of King Alexander of Yugoslavia in her classic book on the Balkans, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941). Giving an account of watching the newsreel again and again in a specially arranged, post-theatrical private screening—an account that gestures at and rhetorically emulates a host of image-manipulating playback techniques (rewinding, slowing, freezing, zooming)—West offers a striking anticipation of the ground covered by Laura Mulvey in Death 24x a Second: Stillness and the Moving Image (2006), where Mulvey mobilizes Raymond Bellour’s concept of “the pensive spectator” to theorize the newly widespread affordances of digital home-viewing technology. Relating ideas of unhurried seeing in Bellour and Mulvey to West’s famously long, timetaking book, the essay identifies in West’s evocation of cinematic spectatorship a pattern of endlessly refracting self-projection that speaks to the complexities of her devotion not to “los[e] sight of the importance of process.” Enlarging and pushing backwards in time the genealogy of the pensive spectator, West offers to film studies a rich nodal point in the ongoing project of writing the prehistory of the digital.
"Regicide on Repeat: The Pensive Spectator of Rebecca West's Black Lamb and Grey Falcon,"
Criticism: Vol. 60:
1, Article 4.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/criticism/vol60/iss1/4