March 31, 2017 – James Rosenow

Please join us on Friday, March 31st at 10:30AM in Cobb 311 for the Mass Culture Workshop’s first Spring Quarter meeting. This time, we welcome James Rosenow, PhD Candidate in Cinema and Media Studies. James will be presenting a draft of her dissertation chapter, entitled “How to–Be Avant-Garde.”

James’s paper is available for download here.

Please email either Katerina Korola [] or Dave Burnham [] for the password.

Refreshments will be provided.

We look forward to seeing you at the workshop!

Your coordinators,

Katerina Korola and Dave Burnham


“How to–Be Avant-Garde”

Fortified by the surge of print and projected media, the 1930s saw a visual turn in American amateur, DIY (“do it yourself”) culture. MGM’s Pete Smith Specialties gave cooking-tips to the home chef, Kodak provided illustrated charts of proper f-stop settings for personal snapshots, and Life magazine guided the general populace through challenging art exhibitions like MoMA’s Fantastic Art, Dada and Surrealism. Chapter 4 “How to—Be Avant-Garde” looks at the democratizing of “expert” knowledge resulting from the ubiquity of visual media across the American landscape. Not only did experimenters participate in the formation of this media-scape by producing many popular educational shorts, they also questioned the implications of amateurism for both the American experience and filmmaking practices. Here, I consider the ways in which Even-As You and I [1937] preforms amateur-ity as a form of institutional critique, aping both Hollywood (“boy meets girl”) and avant-garde (Surrealist and Soviet) approaches to cinema.

This chapter comes from an in-progress dissertation entitled “The American Laboratory and its Film Experiments, 1927-1939.” The project attends to the filmmakers’ authorial choices in order to recognize how their practices were deeply informed by the language and reasoning of domestic and foreign avant-gardes. Rather than proposing to move the historical margins inward, the project attempts to make visible, what has been, in a sense, present all along. At stake however is an entirely new conception of the role homegrown experimental filmmaking had in American modernism.

James Rosenow is a Ph.D. candidate in Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago. James comes from an art history background having received her masters from Williams College and bachelors from Johns Hopkins University. This year she is located in Washington D.C. as the 2016-17 Joshua C. Taylor predoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. James has two essays currently under review for publication next year: “The UnDeath of the Author: Assertions of Agency in iZombie’s adaptation” will be published in McFarland’s edited volume I Am Already Dead: Essays on the CW’s and Vertigo’s iZombie; and “False Amateurs—even” which will be included in Indiana University Press’ A Global History of Amateur Film Cultures, due out sometime in 2018.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *