In August 1913, the radical labour journal Irish Worker published a short story in which a young man falls in love with the screen image of actress Daphne Wildrew, leading lady for the Flictoflicker Company. Published on the eve of a protracted and bitter general strike in the autumn and winter of 1913-14, the story was prominently placed in a newspaper that was primarily an organ of agitation, suggesting the importance of addressing the role of cinema as a medium increasingly popular with workers at this fraught moment. Rather than focusing on issues of media ownership and access to the means of representation treated elsewhere in the Irish Worker, the story concentrated on the structures of fascination in the cinematic image itself, knowledgeably exploring screen-spectator dynamics and indicating the dangers of libidinal investment in moving pictures. As such, it pointed to some of cinema’s problems as a conduit for the political projects of such active social movements in Ireland of the pre-war period as trade unions, suffragettes and the contending factions of nationalism and unionism, all of which sought to address a wide audience through popular media forms. Taking “The Flictoflicker Girl” as its point of departure, this paper will examine discourses of the cinematic image in pre-World War I Ireland.
Curtis, Scott, Philippe Gauthier, Tom Gunning and Joshua Yumibe