Mass Culture Workshop: Aurore Spiers, “Alice Guy Blaché In Her Own Words” (2/23)

Dear all,

Please join us for the Mass Culture Workshop next Friday, February 23! Details below.

There is no pre-circulated paper.

Your 2023–24 Mass Cult coordinators,

Joel and Hugo


Alice Guy Blaché In Her Own Words

Aurore Spiers, Humanities Teaching Fellow, Cinema and Media Studies, University of Chicago

Respondent: Allyson Nadia Field, Associate Professor, Cinema and Media Studies, University of Chicago

February 23, 2024, 11 AM–12:30 PM, Cobb 311


Alice Guy Blaché and François Chalais in Cinépanorama, April 25, 1957. Source: INA Media Pro.


“Alice Guy Blaché In Her Own Words” consists of a chapter (in progress) from my book manuscript Archiving the Past, which examines women’s labor in French film archives and libraries during the first sixty years of the film preservation movement, from the 1920s through the 1970s. This chapter specifically considers how the first woman filmmaker in the world, Alice Guy Blaché (née Guy, 1873–1968), became involved in the recovery of her own contributions to cinema’s history in both France and the United States. When Guy Blaché’s career ended and she returned to France in the early 1920s, few people remembered that she had been Léon Gaumont’s secretary in the early days of the cinematograph and that she had directed and produced many silent and sound films for Gaumont and for her own Solax Studios and several other American production companies. In this chapter, I examine how Guy-Blaché attempted to write herself back into film history not only through her memoirs, letters, and television interviews, but also through personal recordkeeping. I also argue that resistance against Guy Blaché had to do with Georges Méliès, whom Henri Langlois and others began to celebrate as a “pioneer” of French cinema in the 1930s. Contrary to Guy Blaché, whose descendants appear to be scattered in Europe and the United States, and whose archives are mostly lost, the Méliès family remains deeply involved in the preservation—and, indeed, the “patrimonialisation”—of Georges Méliès’s archives at the Cinémathèque française and beyond.


Aurore Spiers (she/her) is a postdoctoral teaching fellow and lecturer in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies and the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality at the University of Chicago. She received her PhD in cinema and media studies from Chicago in 2022. Primarily focused on women’s contributions to cinema, her work interrogates film historiography through the lens of gender and intersectional feminism. Her first book, under contract with University of California Press, studies women’s labor in French film archives from the 1920s through the 1970s. She is also the co-editor, with Clara Auclair, of a collection of essays on the films of Alice Guy Blaché. Her other writing and reviews have appeared in 1895, Feminist Media Histories, Film & History, Discourse, The Moving Image, and Early Visual Popular Culture. She is a contributing editor and country coordinator (France) for the Women Film Pioneers Project.

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