Rafel Seligmann (1911): The Origins of Projection

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This contribution starts from research into the origins of the notion of projection, as applied in a 1911 German article about cinema and dreams, “Kinematograf und Traum”, published by young philosopher Raphael Seligmann on the influential Frankfurter Zeitung. Using the same sources of a philosophy of technics Lewis Mumford and McLuhan will employ later (e.g. the typical late 19th century notion of “organic projection”), Seligmann’s article offers a key to understand the widespread phenomenon that was, precisely at that time, beginning to be labelled as mediatization. At the same time – even if expressed with old-fashioned philosophical categories – it is a clear psychological account of the specific nature of the film projection device: cinema succeeded in matching in a flash of light both the great discoveries of the nineteenth century, technology and the unconscious. After having shown its origins in the philosophical debate of the late 19th century, this paper marks out two different definitions of the notion of projection as applied to cinema. On the one hand, film stands as a psychological device, crucial to the understanding of its cultural value as a symbolic form. On the other hand, film stands as a socio-technological device that gives shape to the form itself of our knowledge. Such a layered notion of projection, straddling two centuries, bringing into play both the unconscious and technology, reveals itself, as a fact, to be a condition of possibility for any cultural evaluation of the new medium of film. It is also an open road for any debate about what we now label the dispositif.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDall'inizio, alla fine / In the Very Beginning, at the Very End
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • Film Psychology
  • Film Theory
  • Projection
  • Rafael Seligmann
  • cinema delle origini
  • proiezione
  • psicologia del cinema
  • teoria del cinema


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