Showing posts from December, 2006

Classroom blogging

I've never been a utopian or even a huge booster when it comes to technology in the classroom. Too often it's never explained why we need blogging in the classroom or why tradition formats of learning and student scholarship are inadequate.

Still, I've decided to set up a group blog for my special topics course in Documentary Fictions next semester. For starters, it's a writing-intensive course, which means significant practice in informal writing as a way to practice and brainstorm for more formal assignments. I saw the weblog format as a useful and equally functional (more functional, in fact) equivalent of printed informal writing.

Moreover, since hybrid forms and questions of documentary authenticity seem to be capturing the attention and imagination of a number of viewers, critics and observers these days, the weblog format should allow for discussion to grow organically over the semester to diagnose what, exactly, makes fake documentary seem so much part of the ze…


Well, the SCMS conference program is out in preliminary form. My first reaction is, wow, that's a lot of panels and papers. Far more than I remember before. It's going to be tough choosing which to attend.

Second, certain topics seem to be popular but the most overwhelming theoretical approach seems to be the public sphere. A few panels are specifically about the topic, and a good couple dozen papers seem to be on it. This oversaturation of work on the public sphere might curb my enthusiasm for making it a tenet of my current book project, except that I still feel that scholarship hasn't adequately addressed the means that Hollywood (and those who watched feature films) came to understand cinema's intervention in the mass public sphere. Let me hope, though, that "public sphere" fatigue doesn't set in soon.

UPDATE: Idiot me: I'd blanked out on the fact that "Media in the Public Sphere" is the theme of this year's conference.

Film Criticism as Subfield

Andy Horbal is hosting a blog-a-thon on film criticism, which seems to be enlisting a wide and engaging variety of participant posts. Most of them talk about journalistic or other nonacademic critics, but I started thinking about film criticism as an academic practice. From what I understand, there used to be a recognizable division of the discipline of film studies into three distinct subfields: film theory, film history, and film criticism. The latter took place in (naturally enough) Film Criticism, Literature Film Quarterly, and oftentimes Film Form, Jump Cut, or Film Quarterly. Whereas film theory used specific textual study to reflect more broadly on representation, society, and culture, film criticism, at least it was thought, was a distinct practice of textual interpretation.

Something changed, of course. The tripartate distinction only held while textual study - based on models of literary study - was the predominant model for what film studies did. As cultural studies, indust…

Textbook extras

I've made some modifications and additions to my textbook comparison post. I know it's against blog ettiquette to keep modifying a past post, but given the topic, it makes sense to keep my textbook comments centralized.

Now, publishers are starting to bundle supplementary material. Actually, of the exam copies I received only two had extras:

Film Art (Bordwell/Thompson). Comes with a CD-ROM and Film Viewer's Guide. The CD-ROM is at best perfunctory - it's Flash-based, with a small image window. Essentially it compiles clips that Bordwell and Thompson's text glosses. Honestly I don't see any advantage over just showing the clips separately. The Film Viewer's Guide is more useful, but even here I wanted more. Bordwell is such a sharp reader of form that you wish he could more clearly effectively communicate to students how to watch attentively and take notes. And I have the same complaint about the writing model here as I do about the sample readings in the te…