While documentary is generally thought to value clarity and denotation, this article examines nonfiction documentary forms where more poetic practices have served as a communicative, if not denotative, tool. Accounts of the first extended underwater observation by pioneering divers like William Beebe, Hans Hass, Philippe Tailliez, and Philippe Diolé used literary allusions and fanciful rhetoric to express the implausible conditions of this alien environment, in a practice that reached its height before the flowering of underwater color and documentary cinema in the mid-1950s.
Denotation in Alien Environments: The Underwater Je Ne Sais Quoi
Margaret Cohen teaches in the Department of Comparative Literature at Stanford University, where she holds the Andrew B. Hammond Chair in French Language, Literature, and Civilization. Her recent research has focused on the marine and maritime humanities, including the book The Novel and the Sea (2010) and a book in progress, Intoxication at Depth, on the impact of the underwater frontier on literature and the visual arts.
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Margaret Cohen; Denotation in Alien Environments: The Underwater Je Ne Sais Quoi. Representations 1 February 2014; 125 (1): 103–126. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/rep.2014.125.1.103
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