Please join us on Friday, October 5, 2018 at 11:00 AM in Cobb 311 for the first meeting of the Mass Culture Workshop for the 2018-19 academic year. We are delighted to have Nicholas Baer, Collegiate Assistant Professor in the Humanities and Harper-Schmidt Fellow in the Society of Fellows at the University of Chicago. He will be presenting an article in-progress titled “Aesthetic Perfection in Film Theory and Criticism: A Brief Conceptual History.”
Nicholas’s paper is available for download here.
Please email either Gary [email@example.com] or Cooper [firstname.lastname@example.org] for the password.
Refreshments will be provided.
We look forward to seeing you!
Yours in Mass Cult,
Gary and Cooper
Aesthetic Perfection in Film Theory and Criticism: A Brief Conceptual History
As Hito Steyerl has observed, the concept of perfection has enormous currency in today’s digital economy, where the high-resolution image functions as a commodity fetish. While Steyerl defends the “imperfect” or “poor” moving image as an antidote to hegemonic media structures, I demonstrate that perfection itself has hardly been stable or unequivocal in its meanings across the history of film theory and criticism. Offering a brief conceptual history, I argue that cinema challenged classical conceptions of aesthetic perfection and contributed to a modernist redefinition of the term for the age of industrial technologies. Furthermore, I highlight formal affinities between the process of filmmaking and the psychoanalytic account of perfectionism, whereby the uncompromising director becomes the figure of the perfectionist par excellence.
Nicholas Baer is Collegiate Assistant Professor in the Humanities and Harper-Schmidt Fellow in the Society of Fellows at the University of Chicago. His monograph-in-progress, Cinema and the Crisis of Historicism, places films of the Weimar Republic in conversation with the “crisis of historicism” that was widely diagnosed by Central European intellectuals in the interwar period. Baer co-edited The Promise of Cinema: German Film Theory, 1907–1933 (University of California Press, 2016), which won the Limina Award for the Best International Film Studies Book and the SCMS Award of Distinction for Best Edited Collection. He is also the co-editor of Unwatchable (Rutgers University Press, 2019), which offers multidisciplinary approaches to the vast array of troubling images that circulate in global visual culture. A regular columnist for Film Quarterly, Baer has published on film and media, critical theory, and intellectual history in numerous journals and edited volumes, and his writings have been translated into Dutch, French, German, Hebrew, and Italian.