Anjo-Marí Gouws, “EXTREMELY BAD MONOLOGUE IN HEAD”: Failure and Form in Anne Charlotte Robertson’s Confessionals (Ethics, Aesthetics, Feminisms)

Ethics, Aesthetics, Feminisms

“EXTREMELY BAD MONOLOGUE IN HEAD”: Failure and Form in Anne Charlotte Robertson’s Confessionals

In therapy since the age of 17, filmmaker Anne Charlotte Robertson had, she noted, been given a range of diagnoses over the course of her life: “adult life-crisis adjustment, anxiety, borderline psychotic, manic-depressive, obsessive.” Little documentation survives of these diagnoses; from what does survive, it seems that the diagnoses most consistently made were that of bipolar depression, and of schizoaffective disorder. Her magnum opus Five Year Diary (1981-1998), a multi-modal diary project that includes a forty-hour long Super 8-diary film, at different instances both facilitated her obsessive states of delusion and became a tool for pushing back against the nonsensical. In this talk I am interested in how Robertson employed particular formal devices to make sense of her illness to herself, but also, in an expanded manner, to make sense of her illness to others. She did so through her use of the close-up, in a register of confessional sequences that proliferate throughout the latter part of the film; and through an incorporation of the failure of her apparatus into a larger conversation about the failure of her body. Throughout this analysis I position Robertson’s interventions against the backdrop of the larger history of women’s psychiatric profiling and its capture on camera.

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This is an online event. It will be live streamed on the Centre for Ethics YouTube Channel on Wednesday, February 10. Channel subscribers will receive a notification at the start of the live stream. (For other events in the series, and to subscribe, visit

Anjo-Marí Gouws

Dr Anjo-marí Gouws is a SSHRC postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Cinema and Media Arts at York University. She is working on a monograph titled Recording the Work of a World: Anne Charlotte Robertson and the Domestication of Cinema.


Wed, Feb 10, 2021
04:00 PM - 05:30 PM
Centre for Ethics, University of Toronto
200 Larkin