Film Theory and Visual Culture Seminar
This seminar aims to foster dialogue among faculty and graduate students across campus working in film, visual culture, art history, literature, and cultural studies, as well as anyone interested in theories of the image, philosophies of perception, aesthetics and critical theory, media histories, and the history of vision. Seminar coordinators: Jennifer Fay (Cinema & Media Arts and English) firstname.lastname@example.org James McFarland (German) email@example.com and Lutz Koepnick (German and Cinema & Media Arts) firstname.lastname@example.org
The seminar meets once a month on Fridays (see schedule below) at the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities, from 12:00- 2:00 p.m. Lunch is provided!!
Samantha Barbas is Professor of Law at the University at Buffalo School of Law. She researches and teaches in the areas of legal history, First Amendment law and mass communications law. Her work focuses on the intersection of law, culture, media and technology in United States history. Barbas is the author of five books on media law and history: Confidential Confidential: The Inside Story of Hollywood’s Notorious Scandal Magazine (Chicago Review Press, 2018); Newsworthy: The Supreme Court Battle Over Privacy and Press Freedom (Stanford University Press, 2017); Laws of Image: Privacy and Publicity in America (Stanford University Press, 2015); The First Lady of Hollywood: A Biography of Louella Parsons (University of California Press 2005); andMovie Crazy: Fans, Stars, and the Cult of Celebrity (Palgrave Macmillan 2001).
Abstract: How the Movies Became Speech
In its 1915 decision in Mutual Film v. Industrial Commission of Ohio, the Supreme Court held that motion pictures were, as a medium, unprotected by freedom of speech and press because they were mere “entertainment” and “spectacles” with a “capacity for evil.” Mutual legitimated an extensive regime of film censorship that existed until the 1950s. It was not until 1952, in Burstyn v. Wilson, that the Court declared motion pictures to be, like the traditional press, an important medium for the communication of ideas protected by the First Amendment. By the middle of the next decade, film censorship in the U.S. had been almost entirely abolished.
Why did the Court go from regarding the cinema as an unprotected medium to part of the constitutionally-protected “press”? The standard explanation for this shift is that civil libertarian developments in free speech jurisprudence in the 1930s and 40s made the changed First Amendment status of the movies and the fall of film censorship inevitable. Challenging this account, I argue that the shift was also the result of a dynamic I describe as the social convergence of mass communications. Social convergence takes place when the functions, practices, and cultures associated with different media come to resemble each other. By the 1950s, movies occupied a role in American culture that increasingly resembled the traditional press. At the same time, print journalism took on styles and functions that were like those historically associated with the movies. The demise of film censorship reflected not only more capacious understandings of freedom of expression, but also convergent communications. The article focuses on the efforts of a nationwide anticensorship movement, between 1915 and the 1950s, to engineer the reversal of Mutual using an argument based on media convergence.
This significant, lost chapter in the history of modern free speech has much to tell us about the ongoing relationship between the First Amendment and new media. It illustrates how courts and the public in an earlier time dealt with a question that is still pressing today: should the medium of communication have significance for free speech law? Illuminating historical patterns of judicial responses to new media, the work offers insights into what we may predict about the regulation of mass media in our own era of media convergence.
The prop names a category of ubiquity: props are everywhere in cinema. The term, short for property, is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “any portable object (now usually other than an article of costume) used in a play, film, etc., as required by the action.” The straightforwardness of this definition, however, belies the strangeness of the prop. The prop begs questions of scale, ambience, contingency, commodification, objecthood, and narration. In the context of narrative cinema, props seem as necessary as actors, sets, and locations. Regarding cinema through the lens of the prop—which is the lens of property—helps us to see how an ontological instrumentality courses through the very nature of the cinematic medium. This talk, which will veer from theory to history to questions of close reading, emerges from my recent book on domestic architecture and cinema, The Spectacle of Property: The House in American Film (2017). In the talk I hope to show how foregrounding cinema’s prop-ness summons into view some of the medium’s most curious and most unsettling features.
Abstract: How do we read language in film, and what can it tell us about reading literature? To answer this set of questions, this talk examines the visual and sonic ways in which the question of language manifests in a range of films from postcolonial India. Specifically, the talk pays attention to the cinematic production of English in an ex-colony, including the practices of censorship, subtitling, and dubbing that shape what is read under the sign of “English”.
Bio: Akshya Saxena is assistant professor of English at Vanderbilt. Her current book project, “Vernacular English,” brings together law, literature, and film to examine the life of the English language in post-independence India. Her scholarship has been supported by the American Council of Learned Societies and the Social Science Research Council, and has appeared or is forthcoming in Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies, South Asian Review, Cultural Critique, and LARB.
Lisa Gitleman (NYU)
"Emoji Dick and World Communication"
12:00- 2:00 PM, Friday, Jan 19, 2018
Marco Abel (University of Nebraska)
"Is School Out?; or, The Berlin School as Event."
12:00-2:00 PM, Friday, Feb 2, 2018
Haerin Shin (Vanderbilt University)
"Posthuman Microagression: The Asian"
12:00-2:00 PM, Friday Feb 16,2018
University of Toronto
"Raw Materialism, Refined Form, and The French Art of Oil"
12:00-2:00 PM, Friday March 23,2017
Talks are held at the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities.
Friday September 22, 12:00- 2:00 p.m.
Michael B. Gillespie (City University of New York)
“Death Grips: Film Blackness and Contemporary Cinema”
Friday, October 20, 12:00- 2:00
Rob King (Columbia University)
“The Revelations of Bill Hicks, or, Rethinking Standup Comedy as a Mode of Social Critique.”
Friday, December 1, 12:00- 2:00
Joseph Jeon (Pomona College)
"Wire Aesthetics: Tube Entertainment’s Flops and the Protocols of Late US Empire"
Johannes von Moltke
University of Michigan
"Of Humans and Things: Classical Film Theory as Media Theory"
September 9, 2016
University of California, Los Angeles
"Sympathy, Solidarity, Montage: The Moviola's Political Ontology"
October 7, 2016
University of Southern California
"Jacques Derrida's Echopoiesis and Narcissism Adrift"
September 25, 2015
"Thinking as Interior Monologue, or Eisenstein and Exteriority”
November 6, 2015
University of Calgary
"Unflattening: Reimagining Scholarship Through Comics"
December 4, 2015
“Hollywood Math after Math: Dataculture and the Obama Era”
March 4, 2016
"Neoliberal Repetitions: Regina José Galindo’s Acts of Ritual Violence"
April 22, 2016
Cinema and Media Studies
University of Chicago
"The Morals of Style"
Friday, Sept. 12, 12:00- 2:00 p.m.
Andrew V. Uroskie
Modern and Contemporary Art
Stony Brook University, State University of New York
"Site-Specificity and Expanded Cinema: Ken Dewey's Selma Last Year (1966)"
Friday, October 10, 12:00- 2:00 p.m.
Film and Media Arts
"Strange Songs: Lyrical Strains in the Essay Film"
Friday, Dec. 5, 12:00- 2:00 p.m.
Department of German | Cinema & Media Arts
"From Masses to Swarms: The Zombie Horde and the Mad Element of Biopolitics."
Friday, February 13, 12:00- 2:00 p.m.
Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
"Bare Life Revisited: Senses of Nudity in Pasolini's Arabian Nights and Darger's Realms of the Unreal."
Friday, April 10, 12:00- 2:00 p.m.
Lutz Koepnick (Department of German and Film, Vanderbilt University)
"Notes on the Long Take: Contemporary Art Cinema and the Wondrous"
Friday, Sept. 27th, 2013
Paul K. Saint-Amour (University of Pennsylvania) Karen Beckman (University of Pennsylvania).
"The Visual Culture of Warfare"
Friday, Oct. 25, 2013
Lesley Stern (Department of Visual Arts, UC-San Diego)
"Can the Cinema Think (and Feel) Like a Thing?"
Friday, November 8, 2013
Ackbar Abbas (Department of Comparative Literature, UC- Irvine)
Junk Space, "Dogville," and Poor Theory
Friday, December 6, 2013
Andrea Mirabile (Department of French and Italian, VU)
"Multimedia Archaeologies: D'Annunzio, Belle Epoque Paris, and the Total Artwork"
Friday, Oct. 26, 2012
Alison Griffiths (Media Studies, Baruch College, CUNY)
"Prison, Cinema, and the Senses: The Social and Psychic Experience of Film Behind Bars"
Friday, November 16, 2012
Jan Mieszkowski (Department of German and Humanities, Reed College)
Friday, December 7, 2012
Jonathan Flatley (Department of English, Wayne State University)
"Andy Warhol's Skin Problems"
Friday, Jan 25, 2013
Gregg Horowitz (Professor and Chair of Social Science, Pratt Institute)
"A Made-To-Order Witness: Women's Knowledge in Vertigo"
Friday, Feb. 15, 2013
Amanda Boetzkes (Department of Contemporary Art History and Theory, University of Guelph)
"Plastic Vision, Oil, Objectivity"
Friday, March 15, 2013
Justus Nieland (English and Film Studies, Michigan State University)
"Sensible Atmospheres, Plastic Worlds: In the Modernism of Expanded Cinema"
Friday, Nov. 11, 2011
Euginie Brinkema (Department of Literature, MIT)
"Horror is a Problem of a Line: Intermittency, Dismay, Anxiety"
Friday, Dec. 8, 2011
Zahid Chaudhary (Department of English, Princeton University)
"What Difference does Difference Make?: Adorno, Mimesis, and the Picturesque in India"
Friday, Jan. 13, 2012
Jacques Khalip (Department of English, Brown University)
Workshop on Releasing the Image
Friday, Jan 27, 2012
David Clark (English and Cultural Studies, McMaster University)
"Animal, Atrocity, Witness"
Friday, March 16, 2012