Showing posts from February, 2011

CFP: Film/Media-related Panels at 2012 MLA

The deadline is approaching for these proposed MLA panels. As to be expected, many are about "literature or film" and an area study; I have tried to list film-specific or media-specific panels first. This year's convention will be in Seattle, January 5-8, 2012.
Film and the Virtual
Papers exploring the topic of virtuality and film, including film's relationship to computer-based media, virtual worlds, digital vs. analog formats, possible worlds and virtual realities. 350-word abstracts by 1 March 2011; Homay King (

Latin American Cinema in the New Millennium
Papers on last decade Latin American films that rewrite the nations present and immediate past. National/transnational trends in production, representation, and analytical perspectives. English/Spanish. 250-word abstracts by 10 March 2011; Gabriela Copertari ( and Carolina Sitnisky (

Multi-mediated Brecht
This panel seeks papers on how Brecht used visu…


On paper, Violence (Monogram, Jack Bernhard) sounds like it retreads many of the thematic concerns of social problem films/noirs/films gris of the period: veterans returning to civilian life, political corruption, and amnesia. It is topically about the postwar moment - which direction America is going to take politically after the War's end. The plot centers on a fascist political movement bankrolled by a mysterious business interest but posing as a populist organization helping out veterans and fronted by a charismatic sermonizing speaker named True Dawson.

What's distinctive is that the elements do not line up in a way typical to noir or the social problem film. Amnesia does not induce flashbacks, create narrative enigma, suggest an unknowable femme fatale, or allegorize America's war experience. Rather, the plot device dramatizes political brainwashing and the specific politics of the left's encounter with the right in the Truman years.
In this way the film is a narr…

Film Noir Film Preservation Blogathon

The film noir-themed blogathon is over, and you can read the many promising entries linked from the Siren's page. From there of from the Blogathon's Facebook page you can still donate to the cause of film preservation - it's a worthy cause, so please consider it.
I was a little too distracted to participate in the blogathon, but I would contribute two brief notes. First, the trajectory of scholarship on noir is similar to how Geoff Mayer characterizes the scholarship on "pre-Code" Hollywood: use of concept, followed by revisionism, followed by a return to the concept. In the case of noir, the return has fallen into two camps, the "yes but" approach of a James Naremore, who acknowledges the incoherence of definition but still thinks there is something to a popular crime modernism in 1940s Hollywood, and the approach of not engaging with the incoherence-critique. As far as the critique itself, Marc Vernet is the most polemical in denying film noir as an

Medium Specificity

A great post by Sean Cubitt, in which he argues that isolating medium specificity for arts is misguided and that it's particularly misguided in an age in which digital technology is blurring previous distinctions - in his words, "the divisions between film, video and digital media arts make no sense and weaken all three." In arguing this, he gives a claim that normatively is like Noel Carroll's attack on the "specificity thesis" but with a McLuhan-esque twist: the nodes of mediation become if not the essence then the most important aspect of artistic expression.
It's a thesis I find though-provoking, but let me propose another way at the question by posing it less about specificity of medium per se than about the specificity of aesthetic forms. Take prose literature in either its short-story or novel forms. In the 18th century the novel emerged as a literary form that imposes expectations for writer and guides aesthetic experience for reader. On one hand…

CFP: Cinema and the Museum conference

Call for PapersMoving Image and Institution: Cinema and the Museum in the 21st Century

The Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH)
Cambridge, England
Wednesday, 6 July 2011 to Friday, 8 July 2011

The conference organisers welcome the submission of abstracts for a 20 minute paper, or a 10 minute moving image/lens-based media presentation + 10 minute talk. Presentations should not exceed 20 minutes in total. The organisers would also welcome proposals for roundtables or structured discussion from groups of 2-4 museum professionals, artists or other practitioners.

The call for submissions is open to academics, curators, museum professionals, filmmakers and artists and all others with professional interests in this emerging field. The focus of these papers is not limited to the contemporary period: presentations may choose to explore earlier case studies or period with a contemporary methodology, for example. It is anticipated that a publication will arise from …

Nora Prentiss

Nora Prentiss (Vincent Sherman, Warner Brothers) often gets categorized as a noir, but to my this particularly is a case of superficial genre elements trumping a systematic genre categorization. I would say the case for the film as noir rest on some finite evidence: the inclusion of a crime investigation as one part of the narrative, an overall visual look in lower key scenes, and a flashback frame opening with the usual iconography of urban fast-film-stock realism and an ambiguous voiceover narration.

There are also occasional expressionistic moments, like this shot rendered with a remarkable visual abstraction:
But I am leaning toward considering the low-key cinematography just part of the Warners' house style of the late 1940s. That includes many noirs, but also is the part of the cinematic vocabulary for dramas in general. Or, perhaps more accurately: "noir" is a concept that tries to unite a wide range of visual styles with a few narrative patterns associated with Ame…

Miriam Bratu Hansen

Many in the field have heard by now the sad news that Miriam Hansen has passed away. Catherine Grant has a fitting tribute of a video lecture that Hansen gave. I would like to reflect a little of the importance of Hansen not only on the field of film studies but on my intellectual path particularly.
I never met her personally, but as someone who did the bulk of his graduate work in the mid-to-late 1990s, I looked up to Hansen's work. Though her writings on early cinema, silent film fandom, and Frankfurt School critical theory predated this period, by the 1990s they took on an agenda-setting quality. Partly because of Hansen's skill popularizing lines of German thought previously unknown or overlooked in the Anglophone film studies field. Partly because she connected the two "hot" areas of early cinema research and work on contemporary, post-classical cinema. Partly because the way she offered a grand unified theory of sorts, bringing together the two challengers to …