Showing posts from April, 2013

The Common Language Problem

There is an interesting discussion going on the Visible Evidence listserv right now about the definition of propaganda. Interesting for what individual contributors are saying but also interesting because a number of those emailing seemed to think that matter was basic and settled but the discussion showed precisely how little agreement documentary scholars had on exactly how to define propaganda.

I won't summarize the debates but in short they point to one key problem in defining propaganda. Film scholars have a set of critical priorities that lead us to avoid the term propaganda. It's value-laden, it obscures more than it reveals, and it revels in a Manichaean division between good and bad nonfiction. The problem is that the term has a wide popular usage. There is no reason scholars cannot (and should not) resist popular terminology and usage, but they can resist it only to a point. For instance, we do not need to label Thin Blue Line a propaganda film simply because it has …

Why Scholarly Apparatus is Useful

This week had me rereading (for teaching) Deleuze's Cinema 2, or at least a chunk of it. It's a book that provokes new reflections every time I read it. Sometimes the thought-provoking parts are those that aren't even central to his core argument. The bit players are worthy in their own right.

And yet those throwaway claims can be frustrating. At one point he casually mentions that the Japanese don't have much use for science fiction. Which is an intriguing idea, but is it true and, if so, how? Is this something Deleuze himself concluded after watching a lot of Japanese films? A common view of area scholars of Japanese culture? A pet theory of a friend of his? A guess? We don't know, because there is no footnote.

I know Deleuze is not an applied scholar or a film historian and he's not going to have an apparatus of footnotes like I might expect those scholars to have. And I'm fine with that. Philosophy is a different kind of writing. And Deleuze's proje…

CFP: New Directions in Sound Studies (VLT)

The Velvet Light Trap
Issue #74: On Sound (New Directions in Sound Studies)

Submission deadline: August 1, 2013

The medium of sound, long placed in a secondary position to the visual within media studies, has experienced a considerable increase in scholarly attention over the past three decades, to the point that “sound studies” is now a distinct field of scholarship. Within media studies, sound-related research today expands well beyond the film and television score or soundtrack to include a broad range of scholarship on radio and popular music. And while sound studies still tends to cohere around media studies departments, an increasing amount of sound media research is interdisciplinary in nature. A “sonic turn” is under way across the humanities and social sciences with sound studies work coming out of philosophy, sociology, anthropology, history, science and technology studies, cultural geography, American studies, art history, and cultural studies. Recent issue…