Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Trouble With Women

It's been tougher for me to track down the Paramount films from 1947, but it is seeming like they tend to specialize in genre films that would not be out of place five or ten years earlier: light comedies, action-adventure films, and "exotic" romances.

The Trouble With Women (Sidney Lanfield) would seem to confirm the notion of the Paramount as a stuck-in-the-30s studio, ignoring the broader changes of postwar aesthetics and ideology in Hollywood films. Whereas other comedies seem to update the screwball formula, The Trouble With Women reprises Bringing Up Baby, with Ray Milland in the bookish Cary Grant role:

The twist, though, is that Milland's character, Prof. Sedley, is a psychoanalyst famous for his counter-intuitive and misogynist theories of female sexuality. To my mind, this points to one of the recurring conventions of the late 40s light comedy: a social satire that cuts both ways. In this case, the film sends up both psychoanalysis and the Babbitt-like reactions of the townspeople to Sedley's ideas.

This dual satire plays out some, too, in the depiction of journalism, though I'm not sure the film departs much from the screwball conventions in this. The Teresa Wright and Brian Donlevy characters are journalists trying to write an expose of Sedley; in the process, they expose mostly their own lack of humanity, but they are still correct in their views.

Donlevy's McBride tries to undergo a social class transformation in the film:
What's striking to me is how the film is poised right at the historical moment of a class transformation of the journalism profession. There are a number of films of the late 40s that seem to be coming to grips with a dying petit bourgeois class.

Friday, November 18, 2011

CFP: Console-ing Passions 2012

Call for Papers

Console-ing Passions
International Conference on
Television, Video, Audio, New Media, and Feminism

July 19-22, 2012
Suffolk University
Boston, MA

Founded by a group of feminist media scholars and artists in 1989, Console-ing Passions held its first official conference at the University of Iowa in 1992. Since that time, the conference has created collegial spaces for scholarly and other creative work on culture, identity, gender, and sexuality in television, digital and aural media, and gaming. In this anniversary year, the conference will focus on remembering its roots and forging its future.

Mindful that changes in media platforms and consumption practices have altered the field of feminist media studies, this year’s conference will reflect back on Console-ing Passions’ own history as well as highlight how contemporary research reflects these multiple alterations. Continuing the feminist legacies of the conference, the 2012 program will emphasize intergenerational conversations. To this end, equal emphasis will be placed on the histories, presents, and futures of feminist inquiry.

Organizers of the 2012 conference are seeking proposals for individual papers, preconstituted panels, or workshops on these broad themes investigated within the context of race, class, gender, and sexuality:

· histories and theories of television
· women in media industries
· media and globalization
· user-generated content and new media economies
· social networking
· television genres
· media and gay/lesbian/transgender politics
· gaming and virtual worlds
· media activism
· experimental media histories and criticism
· media spaces and local media
· social movements and global uprisings
· theories of apparatus and interface
· audiences/players/viewers/listeners
· mobile media
· theories of post-television

Deadline for receipt of proposals is January 10, 2012.

Guidelines for Proposal Submission:

Individual Papers: Individuals submitting paper proposals will be asked to provide an abstract of 350 words, a short bio, and contact information.

Pre-Constituted Panel Proposals: In keeping with this year’s theme, we ask that panels attempt to showcase a range of experience in the field; graduate students and junior members are encouraged to pair with senior scholars. Panel coordinators should submit a 200-word rationale for the panel as whole. For each contributor, please submit a 200-word abstract, a short bio, and contact information. Panels should have three to four papers.

Workshop Proposals: We seek workshop ideas that focus not only on scholarly issues in the discipline, but also on matters of professionalization. Topics might include: gender and sexuality in the workplace; teaching feminist media studies; tenure and family; publishing your first article or monograph; moving to full professor or administration; mentoring challenges and opportunities, etc. Coordinators should submit a 350-word rationale for the workshop (including some discussion of why the topic lends itself to a workshop format), a short bio, and contact information. For each workshop participant, please submit a title, short bio, and contact information. Workshops are intended to encourage discussion; contributors should plan on a series of brief, informal presentations.

Screening Proposals: We invite proposals for video, audio, or new media screenings. Proposals should consist of a 500-word abstract (including the length and format of the work), a short bio of the producer/director, and contact information.

Please submit all proposals, via the conference website at

Direct all questions about the conference and the submission process to:

Follow us on twitter @CPBoston2012

Conference Organizers:
Miranda Banks, Assistant Professor, Visual and Media Arts Department, Emerson College
Nina Huntemann, Associate Professor, Communication & Journalism Department, Suffolk University
Deborah Jaramillo, Assistant Professor, Film and Television Department, Boston University
Suzanne Leonard, Assistant Professor, English Department, Simmons College
Jane Shattuc, Professor, Visual and Media Arts Department, Emerson College

Thursday, November 17, 2011

How To Write About Film History, part I

I am teaching a film history survey. It's only my second time teaching this survey and the first time it's been historically limited (1945-present). One issue I've faced is that this is the first film history course many of the students have taken. As a survey, it's not really a methods class, nor does a larger primary research project seem fitting for this sophomore-level class, but I still want the students to write papers that make historical arguments as part of a research-based project.

To this end, I've developed some guidelines in how to write a film history paper. I thought I'd share them in case anything is useful for other teachers out there, but also I'm open to feedback or tips.

Also, are there guides somewhere that I'm overlooking?

This first part is on coming up with a thesis. The second part, on research, will be in a separate post.

How to Write a Film History Paper: The Thesis

The basics of a thesis

A thesis should make a claim that is not obvious and that one could disagree with. You should be able to put (I intend to prove that) in front of the statement and have it be meaningful. For instance, the following is not much of an original thesis:
(I intend to prove that) The French New Wave was a movement of filmmakers who were inspired by Hollywood.
since few would disagree, but
(I intend to prove that) The French New Wave adopted a trademark black-and-white style because of cost and the influence of photojournalism.
gives a claim that asks the reader to understand the subject differently. (We think of New Wave films in relation to Hollywood, but perhaps Life magazine is just as important.) The thesis could be argued against: for instance, maybe New Wave cinematographers adopted their style mainly because of the need to show on B&W television or as a reaction against Tradition of Quality style. In any case, it's up to the author to present evidence to prove her/his case.

How to come up with a thesis

I have a lot of practice with coming up with thesis statements. It is easier to write a focused, specific thesis if you have read a number of other arguments in the field. Ideally, you should be reading materials for this class (and others) with an eye for figuring out their arguments, not simply absorbing information.

In the meantime, there are a few questions you can ask about your topic to help you come up a thesis:

- Is there some pattern of filmmaking that others haven't written on?
- What historical causes can you pinpoint behind some aspect of a film or group of films?
- Why could this film have only been made when it was made? (If you think the answer is obvious, it's not.)
- How can we think about the film/films as economic products in addition to art or entertainment?

Scope of a thesis

The scope of the paper will determine the length it takes to provide enough evidence. If the thesis is broad, a shorter paper will be too general. For a 5-6 page paper, narrow down your argument. You won't be able to talk about a whole movement or period in general. Find, instead, some aspect. You can focus on particular case studies (directors, films, etc) - this approach works better if you can do a little extra research into production, exhibition, or reception of the film.

Or, you can focus on a formal or ideological aspect - like New Wave cinematography (above), screenplay form in 40s Japanese cinema, or racial casting in 80s Hollywood. It's up to you and your creativity - and what's previously been written on the subject.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

22nd Screen Conference CFP

The 22nd International Screen Studies Conference is organised by Screen journal and will be programmed by Screen editor Karen Lury.

We invite papers on any topic in screen studies, i.e. cinema, television and digital media. Submissions for pre-formed three-person panels will be considered but not prioritised.

‘Other Cinemas’ will be the subject of the plenaries and will form a strand running throughout the conference.

Confirmed keynote speakers:
Charles Acland (Concordia University), editor of Useful Cinema (2011)
Elizabeth Lebas (Middlesex University), author of Forgotten Futures: British Municipal Cinema 1920-1980 (2011)

Looking into the past and the future of cinema has inspired increasing academic interest in films and film-making practices that are generally considered to be outside the ‘mainstream’ of commercial cinema. Screen wishes to encourage presentations that engage with these ‘Other Cinemas’. This might involve:

• ‘Amateur’ films;
• Educational cinema;
• Industrial films;
• Films produced for and distributed via different web platforms;
• Experimental or avant-garde work;
• ‘Sponsored’ films (municipal cinema, health films).

The deadline for proposals is Friday, 13th January 2012.

Please visit the conference site for full submission details.