“Documentary Film and the Discourse of Hysterical/Historical Narrative.”

Lucy Fischer’s article “Documentary Film and the Discourse of Hysterical/Historical Narrative.”
Lucy Fischer analyzed Ross McElwee Sherman’s film “Documentary Film and the Discourse of Hysterical/ Historical Narrative” in March 1985 and wrote “Documentary Film and the Discourse of Hysterical/ Historical Narrative.” The title of the film is derived from events that occurred between 1864 and 1865. During this time, civil war general William Tecumseh Sherman walked through the southern area, passing by various political boundaries and geographical features. Fischer identifies historical tasks in the documentary, which will be discussed in this article. Furthermore, the document will examine two paradigms that the film straddles while providing evidence. This article would also go into the trope or instrument that McElwee employs in his account of events. Finally, the paper will include individual’s personal opinion regarding Fischer’s film description.


Documentary’s Historical Tasks

The film is a historical epitome since the article identifies three significant past events. First, the narration of the previous God’s voice is an indication of a historical event. Secondly, the film displays archival photographs which represent historical events. Thirdly, the recitation of the “facts” indicates historical activities “On this level, we might imagine the text as a historical epic in nonfiction form—and its initial voice-of-God narration, its display of archival photographs and its recitation of the “facts” do nothing to disappoint us.” (Fischer, p. 356).

Two Paradigms the Film is Straddling Citing Evidence

According to Fisher, the McElwee’s movie is straddling two paradigms. First, the film follows de Lauretis’s paradigm, “From a certain perspective, McElwee’s journey might be said to follow de Lauretis’s paradigm for the Western fictional hero.” (Fischer, p. 360). This claim is evident from the manner in which his narrative has similarities with the traversal of space. Besides, his film and Odysseus journey of returning from the war of Trojan have similarities. Both scenarios obtain information from military activities through the mediation of Sherman’s figure. As a result, David Ansen refers to the film as “American Odyssey.” Secondly, the film also utilizes relationships between femininity and topos. This paradigm is present when Charleen and Sherman walk Sherman’s journey.

Trope or Tool McElwee Utilizes in his Chronicling of Events

In his film, unlike other creative writers who adopt a particular trope to chronicle various events, McElwee fails to choose a specific tool. For instance, upon realizing he was attracted to a language scholar, Winnie he confesses his feeling with aural deadpan, “My interest in linguistics continues to grow.” (Fischer, p. 365). Besides, when he films Pat while exercising, he said he had accidentally forgotten to capture the sound. Also, his action of watching her without saying anything portrays her gyrating and suggestive movements. Consequently, they appear as almost pornographic.

Personal Opinion regarding Fischer’s Film Description

In my opinion, Fischer wrote a perfect film description. She started her report by mentioning the main character in the film and its production period. Besides, the story has a definite chronological flow of events making it easier for readers to understand it. Furthermore, she mentions other characters in the film that complements the primary players. Also, in her description, Fischer includes significant film features. Firstly, she suggests two significant paradigms the video is straddling. Secondly, Fischer captures trope McElwee Utilizes in his chronicling of events.


Lucy Fischer wrote the documentary to describe a historical film by McElwee. The paper indicates documentary’s historical tasks such as the display of archival photographs. Besides, the paper has discussed two paradigms the film is straddling. Also, the document includes trope McElwee used while chronicling events in the film. Finally, the paper is inclusive of writer’s personal opinion regarding Fischer’s description of the film.

Work Cited

Fischer, Lucy. (2013). “Documentary Film and the Discourse of Hysterical/ Historical Narrative.” Documenting the Documentary, 5 July. 2017, pp. 356-367.

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