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Showing posts from July, 2009

Taste and Scholarship

The conversation continues on over chez Girish. One question that Girish raises:
Also, to touch on Elkins again for a second: he wishes at one point in the book for art critics who not only make evaluative judgments but also perform reflections on their own judgments, thus laying bare and reflecting upon the criteria they apply to their evaluations. This is a valuable form of self-consciousness, a self-reflection upon the critic's own taste: the criteria applied by the critic, what that critic's taste values and does not value, which includes a connecting up of one's taste with history, i.e. inserting oneself into a historical lineage of thought about art and its evaluation. This is an interesting challenge.Gareth pipes in that scholars often ignore popular cinema and don't take its aesthetic value seriously.
Their points made me wonder: how much does canonicity still hold in the field? How self-conscious are scholars about their own taste formations and biases?
I'll …

What Histories Overlook

I found my scholarly motto, in a Richard Maltby essay ("Post-classical historiographies and consolidated entertainment" Neale/Smith, eds., Contemporary Hollywood Cinema). The essay has been out for some time; I missed this the first time around:
What is certainly true of the history of classical Hollywood as presently written is that the industry's prestige product has been excluded from the critical canon as criticism seeks to construct a Hollywood cinema worthy - thematically, aesthetically, ideologically - of study (40).What's remarkable is that this is still true, and that the vein to mine is pretty rich.

The Scholar-Critic Conversation

Girish has a thoughtful and thought-provoking post on the gap between film scholarship and film criticism. I'll agree with most of what he says, though I'm not sure how to bridge the gap and think it's a broader problem about the relation of humanities scholarship to a general public. (What Would Tim Burke Say?)

For now, let me both agree and quibble with this:
One of the invaluable aspects of scholarly work is this "huge collective effort" that builds upon the work of others--both of centuries past and contemporary. The edifices that scholars construct have the likelihood of being tall and capacious by virtue of the largeness of this effort. There is a lesson here that film critics can learn from scholars: the practice of reading widely to become familiar with traditions of thought in film, art, philosophy, and other disciplines that can guide them and their readers towards a deeper understanding of cinema.I myself like the "standing on the shoulder of giants…

Learning from Failures (Narration Edition)

As I've mentioned before, I think there's a pedagogical value - for our students and for ourselves - in approaching failures as opportunities to learn. This holds true whether we think they're genuine failures or merely seeming failures. For instance, and I know some people will disagree with this assessment, I find Cruising to be a screenwriting and directing failure because it hinges on a character epiphany it is only fitfully able to show, but this inability reveals how both classical and art films normally handle character epiphany.

Or, there's this user-board reaction to a giallo film, Case of the Bloody Iris:
"The Case Of The Bloody Iris" is a movie filled with so many stupid and cheesy moments that it's impossible to list them all here (just an example: a bloody corpse is discovered in the elevator of a high-rise apartment building while the sun is still up; after several hours, the night has fallen, a woman tries to get into the elevator, and the co…

New RKO Essay

I've let the blog lapse lately. More will be coming this summer, but right now I'm teaching and facing a writing deadline, so it may be a little while longer before the posts return.
In the meantime, I wanted to let anyone interested know that I have an essay out in a new book, Convergence Media History, edited by Janet Staiger and Sabine Hake (Routledge site). The book compiles media-history case studies (in film, TV, or other media) that tease out broader methodological implications for media research today. My essay, "When Pierre Bourdieu Meets the Political Economists," looks at the RKO problem-film unit.
There are a couple of other bloggers with essays in the volume, and in general I'm pleased to be included in such good company.