This narrative is schematic and arguable. But amidst the changes to the field and changes to "theory" that we've seen, I have a larger question about the role of theoretical movements in our pluralistic field. As I've mentioned, I've been researching the Chicago school sociologists and in the process came across this nice bit from Martin Bulmer:
A 'school' in the social sciences may be thought of as akin to the term used in art history to designate a group of contemporaries sharing a certain style, technique, or set of symbolic expressions and having some point of other in time or space a high degree of interaction (e.g. the impressionists, the Bauhaus, etc.). A local example would be the Chicago school of architecture, centered on Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright.As my usage above indicates, I do think of Wisconsin's program as an institution-based school of thought. There is also a Chicago school for film theory; their faculty's convergence around theories of modernity and a longue duree is remarkable. I know I often get interpellated as a product of a specifically Brown school, in ways I usually live up to, sometimes not. (If I had to articulate the formula, it would be post-Marxist theoretical interest in ideological formations + lingering interest in 70s film theory.) But clearly not all institutions comprise or are dominated by such schools. And not all scholars fit remotely into one.
Several ideal-typical characteristics may be seen to distinguish a school of social science. It has a founder-leader and a group of his or her followers, usually ranging in number from one to three dozen members. This leader has a relatively dominating personality. The group is usually drawn together by a set of ideas, beliefs, and normative dispositions, articulated by the founder-leader, which are somewhat at odds with those prevailing in the discipline at the time. (The Chicago School of Sociology 2).
A few open questions I have: are we currently, genuinely, in a pluralistic field or merely a field of competing schools? Is there a difference? Do schools drive pluralism or has their relative decline since the 80s opened up space of pluralism? Is pluralism a good thing or does it mean a disjointing of scholarly conversations? Does pluralism portend some major shift in the discipline of film studies?