May 24, 2019 — Matt Hubbell

Please join us on Friday, May 24, 2019 from 11:00am-12:30pm in Cobb 311 for the final meeting of the Mass Culture Workshop for the Spring Quarter. We are delighted to have Matt Hubbell, PhD Candidate in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies. He will be presenting a chapter entitled “Spontaneity and Form: Political Action, Acting, and the Stakes of Improvisation.”

Matt’s text is available for download here.
Please do not circulate without permission.
Please email either Gary [gkafer@uchicago.edu] or Cooper [cooperlong@uchicago.edu] for the password.

Refreshment will be provided.

We look forward to seeing you!

Yours in Mass Cult,
Gary and Cooper


Spontaneity and Form: Political Action, Acting, and the Stakes of Improvisation

From Raymond Aron’s famous condemnation of May ’68 in France as a “psychodrama,” to Marxist hopes that it constituted a “dress rehearsal” for a revolution to come, to praise of the uprising as a sort of liberatory street-theater, the events of May ’68 have often been described in theatrical terms. Arguing that theatre is a practice that itself interrogates, theorizes and experiments with the possibilities of human action, this chapter put questions of political action into conversation with modes of theatrical acting, in order to read that era’s political debates about the efficacy of spontaneity alongside simultaneous experiments with performance practices based on the principle of improvisation. Focusing in particular on Jacques Rivette’s improvised 13-hour film Out 1 (1971) and the work of the radical American theatrical troupe the Living Theatre, I explore the resonances and contradictions between their political and aesthetic aspirations, and ask whether these experiments, and their attempts to create new forms out of unplanned events or encounters, offer a productive model and inspiration for political action, or whether they become, instead, a substitute for it.

Matt Hubbell is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago. His dissertation, “Acting After the New Wave: The Political Aesthetics of Performance in France, 1968-1981,” focuses on changes in performance style and the cinematic uses of the body in the post-68 period in order to explore the intersection of cinematic form, politics, and everyday experience.

May 10, 2019 — Rochona Majumdar

Please join us on Friday, May 10, 2019 from 11:00am-12:30pm in Cobb 311 for the fourth meeting of the Mass Culture Workshop for the Spring Quarter. We are delighted to have Rochona Majumdar, Associate Professor in the Departments of South Asian Languages and Civilizations and Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago. She will be presenting a chapter in-progress entitled “Ritwik Ghatak and the Overcoming of History.”

Rochona’s text is available for download here.
Please do not circulate without permission.
Please email either Gary [gkafer@uchicago.edu] or Cooper [cooperlong@uchicago.edu] for the password.

Refreshment will be provided.

We look forward to seeing you!

Yours in Mass Cult,
Gary and Cooper


Ritwik Ghatak and the Overcoming of History

Indian art cinema’s relationship to historical events receives a particular shape in Ritwik Ghatak’s partition trilogy. His historical stance, as I see it, was two-fold. His films registered the deep sense of loss and instability engendered by the event of the partition but they also claimed emphatically that the political split of the nation-state did not annul the collective life of the Bengali (Hindu) people. It is to an analysis of the cinematic idiom he forged to express this historical stance–of acknowledging the violence of political history but also wanting to transcend it at the same time, a double move that sought to combine mourning with hope–that I turn in this chapter.

Rochona Majumdar is an Associate Professor in the Departments of South Asian Languages and Civilizations and Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago. She is a historian of modern India. Her interests span histories of Indian cinema, gender and marriage in colonial India, postcolonial history and theory, and intellectual history. Her two books include Marriage and Modernity: Family Values in Colonial Bengal (Durham: Duke University Press, 2009; New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2009) and Writing Postcolonial History (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2010).