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).

May 3, 2019 — Will Carroll

Please join us on Friday, May 3, 2019 from 11:00am-12:30pm in Cobb 311 for the third meeting of the Mass Culture Workshop for the Spring Quarter. We are delighted to have Will Carroll, PhD candidate at the University of Chicago in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies and Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations. Will will be presenting an article in-progress titled “The Unexpected Encounter of Two Parallel Lines: Urban Space in the Films of Johnnie To and Wai Ka-fai.”

Will’s article 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


The Unexpected Encounter of Two Parallel Lines: Urban Space in the Films of Johnnie To and Wai Ka-fai

This paper considers the formal articulation of urban space in the films of Johnnie To & Wai Ka-fai, particularly the similarities and differences between the two primary genres the filmmakers work in (crime films and romantic comedies) and their respective distribution circuits and target audiences. Drawing from recent scholarship on urban space in Hong Kong, Chinese, and broader East Asian cinema, I argue that their films in both genres hinge on spatial relationships that are specific to rapidly transforming metropolises. However, I contend that the films, while similar in their approach to space, differ in their approach to place: the crime films tend to emphasize the a specific neighborhood or building within Hong Kong, while the romantic comedies tend to be set in generic and interchangeable urban environments.

William Carroll is a PhD candidate at the University of Chicago. He is pursuing a joint degree in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies and Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations. His main research interests include Japanese Cinema from the 1920s to the 1960s, cinephilia, and international popular genre cinemas. His work has been published in the Journal of Japanese and Korean Cinema, and he has a forthcoming article in Cinéma&Cie 32. His dissertation is entitled ‘The Depth of Flatness and the Voice of Silence: Suzuki Seijun and 1960s Japanese Film Theory.’

Apr. 4, 2019 — Racquel Gates

Please join us on Thursday, April 4, 2019 at from 1:00-2:30pm in Foster 103 for the first meeting of the Mass Culture Workshop for the Spring Quarter. We are delighted to have Racquel Gates, Assistant Professor of Media Culture at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York. Racquel will be presenting a work in-progress titled “Beyond the Sunken Place: The Limits of Representation in Black Film and Media Studies.”

There is no pre-circulated paper for this workshop.

**Please note the special time and location of this event.**

Lunch will be provided.

We look forward to seeing you!

Yours in Mass Cult,
Gary and Cooper


“Beyond the Sunken Place: The Limits of Representation in Black Film and Media Studies”

To what extent does black representation in Hollywood exist in a state of perpetual emergency? Swinging between the two extremes of dearth of representation on the one hand, and politically regressive presence on the other, the history of the black image in film has been a simple story of conflict. From The Birth of a Nation to the whitewashing of black stories, these oppositional forces create a constant state of crisis around matters of black representation, leading to the celebration of “wins,” most often in the form of accolades, awards nominations, or even mere being. The problem with this scenario, I argue in this paper, is that this constant state of representational urgency obscures the more nuanced questions of how representation functions, what it means, and how it resonates. If we consider it a “win” for a black cast film to merely exist, where and when do scholars, critics, and fans get to ask questions about quality, taste, and emotional resonance? Or, to frame it differently, is there even space to contemplate these aspects of cinematic representation when the history of the black image has always been one of celebrating wins and trying to minimize losses?

Racquel Gates is an Assistant Professor at the College of Staten Island, CUNY. Her research focuses on blackness and popular culture, with special attention to discourses of taste and quality. She is the author of Double Negative: The Black Image and Popular Culture (Duke, 2018) and has written numerous essays on film and media, some of which appear in Film Quarterly, Television & New Media, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Review of Books.

Mar. 8, 2019 — Meghanne Barker

Please join us on Friday, March 8, 2019 at 11:00am in Cobb 311 for the final meeting of the Mass Culture Workshop for the Winter Quarter. We are delighted to have Meghanne Barker, Collegiate Assistant Professor in Social Sciences at the University of Chicago. Meghanne will be presenting the final chapter from her book manuscript entitled “Stepping Out of the Frame.” Responding to the chapter is Marissa Fenley, PhD Student in English and TAPS.

Meghanne’s chapter 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.

This session will be co-sponsored by the Theater and Performance Studies Workshop.

Refreshment will be provided.

We look forward to seeing you!

Yours in Mass Cult,
Gary and Cooper


Stepping Out of the Frame

This chapter follows two protagonists as they move out of the frame in which they have been placed, as they move from their second home, the site of their temporary displacement, back to their first home. The chapter moves between the story of Kashtanka, a dog who makes her debut at a circus and is discovered by her first masters, and of Marlin, a boy at Hope House, the temporary children’s home in Kazakhstan where I conducted my research. It follows Marlin on his last day as he makes his way home with his father. It looks not only at the plot of the play of Kashtanka itself, but also at the ways relationships were threatened, ruptured, and repaired among the artists working to put together this play at the Almaty Puppet Theater. The chapter examines the role of various kinds of frames – the frames of performance, of mediating technologies, and even physical frames for text objects – in enabling decontextualization and recontextualization, thus offering new perspectives and mitigating loss as people move out of particular frames and into new spaces.

Meghanne Barker is a Collegiate Assistant Professor in Social Sciences and a Harper-Schmidt Fellow in the Society of Fellows at the University of Chicago. She is a linguistic anthropologist whose research examines intersections of play, performance, materiality, and childhood in post-Soviet Kazakhstan. Barker received her PhD in 2017 from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She is currently developing this research into two book projects. First, an ethnographic monograph, Animating Childhood in Almaty, shows the role of everyday enactments of ideal childhood, family, and home for preschool-aged children growing up in a temporary, state-run home. In her second book project, Puppets of the State, Barker expands her historical investigation of the vast network of Soviet-era, state-run puppet theaters and their contemporary legacy, examining puppets’ roles in socializing young citizens and in international campaigns of soft power through tours and festivals.

 

Feb. 27, 2019 — Pedro Doreste and Dalina Perdomo

Please join us on Wednesday, February 27, 2019 at 5:30pm in Foster 103 for the fourth meeting of the Mass Culture Workshop for the Winter Quarter. We are delighted to have Pedro Doreste, PhD Student in Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago, and Dalina Perdomo, Curatorial Fellow for Diversity in the Arts at Museum of Contemporary Photography. The title of their paper is “Romance in Absentia: A Cultural History of Puerto Rican Cinema Found and Lost.” Responding to the paper is Carmelo Esterrich, Associate Professor of Humanities at Columbia College-Chicago.


** Please take special note of the date, time and location of the workshop.***

Pedro and Dalina’s paper 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.

This session will be co-sponsored by the Workshop on Latin America and the Caribbean.

Dinner will be provided.

We look forward to seeing you!

Yours in Mass Cult,
Gary and Cooper


Romance in Absentia: A Cultural History of Puerto Rican Cinema Found and Lost

Romance Tropical (1934), directed by Juan Emilio Viguié Cajas, is the first feature length Puerto Rican sound film and, at the moment, the earliest extant Puerto Rican film. The film was thought lost for over eighty years when it was accidentally found at the UCLA Film & Television Archive. This discovery opened up new possibilities for the study Puerto Rican film, as previous to this, the earliest Puerto Rican film available to the public was one released in 1951. The locating and restoration of Romance Tropical is an invaluable addition to the ongoing discourse surrounding Puerto Rico’s national cinema, or lack thereof, yet it also raises questions of ownership due to the complicated geopolitical relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States. The terms of how the film was found adds to this context, as it was “lost” to Puerto Rico and then given new life by a process of being found, verified, preserved, digitized, screened, and ultimately “rescued” by a series of American institutions. In addition to the troubled nature of the film’s rediscovery and delayed reexhibition, there remains the fact of the film’s problematic content. The film itself perpetuates certain imperialist and racist ideologies typically associated with the Unites State’s treatment of its unincorporated territories—a relationship of occupation, discrimination, and othering—as it allows a suspiciously white Puerto Rico to imagine itself as the metropolis, invading and plundering a different island populated by a black, “uncivilized” indigenous society. But such a discussion about Puerto Rico’s own racist history and the politics of film preservation did not take place in the eighty years during which the film was lost, and it appears as if the film’s rediscovery has yet to catalyze it. As of this writing, Romance Tropical has yet to re-premiere in Puerto Rico as the island continues to recover from the devastating effects of Hurricane María. We envision this paper as a necessary corrective to these entities’ teleological understanding of recovery — recovery from various forms off decay, disaster, or neglect.

Pedro Noel Doreste Rodriguez is a third year doctoral student in Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago. His research surveys the emergence and disappearance of transnational cinemas in and of Latin America, with a particular focus on the minor cinemas of the Caribbean. His work has been published in Reception and Atenea. He loves his dogs.

Dalina Aimée Perdomo Álvarez received her MA in Film Studies from The University of Iowa. She is currently Curatorial Fellow for Diversity in the Arts at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, and also works at the Video Data Bank. She uses whatever free time is left to write about Puerto Rican film and its intersections with other art forms.