October 20th, 2017 – Susan Courtney

Hello Everyone!

Please join us this Friday, October 20th at 11: 00 AM in Cobb 311 for our second meeting of the Mass Culture Workshop. This week we’re happy to welcome Susan Courtney, Professor of Film and Media Studies and English at the University of South Carolina. She will be presenting on her exciting new book Split Screen Nation: Moving Images of the American West and South. Her presentation is titled “Vernacular Screen Forms of the American Paradox.”

The opening chapters of her new book are available for download here

Please email either Panpan [panpan@uchicago.edu] or Jenisha [jenisha@uchicago.edu] for the password.

Refreshments will be provided.

We look forward to seeing you at the workshop!

Yours coordinators,

Panpan and Jenisha


Vernacular Screen Forms of the American Paradox

I’m circulating the opening chapters of my new book, Split Screen Nation: Moving Images of the American West and South. An intersectional study of orphaned and popular screen media, this book investigates the history of divided feelings about the United States and its most paradoxical narratives through the lens of region. In the decades after World War II, it argues, such feelings animated a detectable opposition between the screen West and the screen South. Reading these vernacular screen forms in relation, the project aims to expand our understanding of their circulation across a diverse range of theatrical and non-theatrical material. Attentive to the diverse contexts of production and consumption at issue in its archive, Split Screen Nation does not jettison close analysis of audiovisual form, but rather by seeks to refine the kinds of historical insight we might extract with it.

Since my talk at UC the day before the workshop will focus on my work on atomic test films, I thought it might be nice to invite folks to consider some of the larger questions the book engages, so I’m sharing the introduction and the first chapter. Also, since the book uses short sections I call “teasers” before these chapters, to invite readers to easily dip into, and travel around in, some of its key examples, I’ve included two of these as well to offer a glimpse of the range of materials the book considers. It might be nice to discuss the range interventions—methodological and otherwise—laid out in the introduction. I’ve included chapter one as more of a supplement (for any who may be interested) that lets you see how I engage amateur film.

Susan Courtney is Professor of Film and Media Studies and English at the University of South Carolina, where she co-founded the Orphan Film Symposium. Her most recent book, Split Screen Nation: Moving Images of the American West and South (Oxford UP), came out earlier this year. Recent publications also include a series of guest columns in Flow: A Critical Forum on Media and Culture on teaching race and media studies today. Courtney is also the author of Hollywood Fantasies of Miscegenation: Spectacular Narratives of Gender and Race, 1903-1967 (Princeton UP).

October 13th, 2017 – Donald Crafton

Please join us for the opening Mass Culture Workshop (2017-18) this Friday, October 13th at 11 am in Cobb 311. We are looking forward to starting with a wonderful tribute to Hannah Frank by Donald Crafton, Professor of Film, Television, and Theatre (Emeritus), University of Notre Dame. His paper is titled “Pentimenti: Painterly Traces in the Films of Georges Schwizgebel.”

Georges Schwizgebel, L’Homme sans ombre, (c) 2004 National Film Board of Canada

No paper will be pre-circulated.

Refreshments will be provided.

Look forward to seeing you.

Yours in Mass Cult,
Jenisha and Panpan


Abstract

Hannah Frank, in her Ph. D. dissertation and the book that she was preparing before her untimely death, was pioneering a new way of exploring cinema by applying frame-based analysis to theatrical animation, that is, to classic Hollywood cartoons. Her efforts were aimed at breaking through the enduring familiarity of these works by revealing the micro-events, blemishes, errors and corrections that the filmmakers assumed to have been masked by the films’ passage through the projector at 24 fps. She insisted that animation was never cameraless, and that the animated image was just as indexical as any other cinematized image. Each frame is a photograph of an object in its real-world environment, whether as a mise-en-scene with humans, or puppets on a stage, or stacks of paper and cels on an animation stand. She contended that, “all animation—whether produced by a single artist, such as [Robert] Breer or [Ken] Jacobs, or at a major production studio, such as Universal or Warner Bros.—amounts to ‘single-frame cinematography.’” Quoting Eisenstein, she insisted on “a definition that ‘logically implies that animation and montage are equivalent, that they represent the same basic operation.’ And while most cartoons aim to soften the discontinuity between frames through the careful frame-by-frame reconstruction of animal and human locomotion, they sometimes deviate from that tendency—and quite radically” (dissertation, 40).

This presentation is a demonstration of and inquiry into the analytic methods proposed by Frank. The subject is Swiss filmmaker Georges Schwizgebel (b. 1944). Schwizgebel’s work lends itself to this approach, not because they are commercial, neo-Hollywoodian cartoons, but on the contrary because they are hermetic, very dense visually, and crafted in extremely fine detail. In particular, he uses thick layers of paint, called impasto, for both the figures and the backgrounds, both of which often are repainted for every exposure. When in motion, this technique creates very complicated and ambiguous relationships between figure and ground, with the moving characters seeming to battle their way through a solid atmosphere of paint. Other techniques include creating dizzying movements that simulate a camera flying over landscapes and through spaces, often marked with deep shadows. Schwizgebel also refines the classic animation technique of cycling, that is, re-photographing the drawings or cels in a series to generate rhythmic, pulsing movement. For examples of his films, see Jeu and L’Homme sans ombre.

The talk will concentrate on the filmmaker’s most recent work, The Battle of San Marco (2017). It is constructed with a spiraling-out “camera” movement that confronts the indigenous spatial issues within Paolo Ucello’s renaissance depiction of a furious battlefield. When viewed frame-by-frame, we can see the tensions between still and moving imagery, “mathematic” perspective and intuitive spatial representation, and an implicit battle between the painting’s foreground and background. Furthermore, various pentimenti, that is, traces of underlying painting, reveal surprising additions by the animator that only appear when focusing on narrow areas of the picture and watching it in slow motion. Schwizgebel’s technique also creates temporal pentimenti, as the new layers of paint pile upon the previous ones to generate what Frank might have called “discontinuities between frames” that are partly intentional, partly accidental, yet always disruptive of the smooth flow of classic animation.

Donald Crafton is the Joseph and Elizabeth Robbie Professor of Film, Television, and Theatre (Emeritus) at University of Notre Dame. He is the author of books on early French filmmaker Emile Cohl, on the transition from silent cinema to the talkies, and two landmark monographs on animation: Before Mickey: The Animated Film, 1898-1928, and Shadow of a Mouse: Performance, Belief, and World-Making in Animation. He is co-editor of The Moving Image, the journal of the Association of Moving Image Archivists.In 2001, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences named him an inaugural Academy Film Scholar.

June 9th, 2017 – Takuya Tsunoda

Please join us on Friday, June 9th at 10:30AM in Cobb 311 for the sixth, and final, Spring Quarter meeting of the Mass Culture Workshop. This week we’re looking forward to welcoming Dr. Takuya Tsunoda, Lecturer in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies. Takuya will be presenting an article in progress, titled “Radical or Clinical: Hani Susumu, Nouvelle Vague in Japan and the Ontogeny of Cinema.”

Dr. Tsunoda’s paper is available for download here.

Please email either Katerina Korola [katerinakorola@uchicago.edu] or Dave Burnham [burnham@uchicago.edu] for the password.

Refreshments will be provided.

We look forward to seeing you at the workshop!

Your coordinators,

Katerina Korola and Dave Burnham

 


Radical or Clinical: Hani Susumu, Nouvelle Vague in Japan and the Ontogeny of Cinema

This essay focuses on Hani Susumu and his complex status, namely, one of the champions of the Japanese New Wave who has thus far been sidelined in the Japanese film history of the period. Tracing and analyzing the historical trajectory of Hani’s filmmaking principles and practices (primarily at Iwanami Productions), this study reconsiders the genealogy of the postwar cinematic modernism. To be more specific, I argue that Hani’s films solicit an inclusive participation in a ‘film-making’ reenactment of its own evolutionary path, not an exclusive commitment to a revolutionary break with the cinema of the past. Hani’s conception of the medium as a “processive” – in Hani’s own term – apparatus called for a retrogressive move against the concurrent drive for a commitment to progressive radicalism, or a form of media activism deeply tied with a crucial theoretical mode of defining new cinema of the 1960s as a “political act.” Reflecting upon further analyses of Iwanami’s preceding educational film and Hani’s shorts, I draw on an ontogenetic perspective that relates such retrogressive and (quasi-)atavistic praxis to the crucial root of the new cinema movement as well as to the reflexive vision fostered by postwar audio-visual pedagogy in Japan.

 

Takuya TSUNODA is a Lecturer in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago. He has book chapters and an article forthcoming on Iwanami Productions, Japanese television documentaries from the 1970s, industrial film in Japan, and the Japanese director IMAMURA Shohei. His current research centers on the history and theory of audio-visual education and its relation to the new cinemas of the 1960s.

June 2nd 2017 – Matt Hubbell

Please join us on Friday, June 2nd at 10:30AM in Cobb 311 for the fifth Spring Quarter meeting of the Mass Culture Workshop. This week we welcome Matt Hubbell, PhD Candidate in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies. Matt will be presenting a chapter of his dissertation, Acting After the New Wave: The Political Aesthetics of Performance in France, 1968-1981. The chapter is titled “Exemplary Gestures, Revolutionary Postures, and the Forms of Rupture: Embodying History in the Shadow of ‘68.”

Matt’s paper is available for download here.

Please email either Katerina Korola [katerinakorola@uchicago.edu] or Dave Burnham [burnham@uchicago.edu] for the password.

Refreshments will be provided.

We look forward to seeing you at the workshop!

Your coordinators,

Katerina Korola and Dave Burnham

 


Exemplary Gestures, Revolutionary Postures, and the Forms of Rupture: Embodying History in the Shadow of ‘68

The first chapter of my dissertation focuses on a group of films and images produced in the months surrounding the events of May 1968 in France.  In particular, I examine the ways in which these works – including a fiction film made immediately prior to the May events, a famous photograph taken during a demonstration in May, and a short documentary film made in June, as the strikes and protests are subsiding – aim to create or capture bodily gestures that have an exemplary relationship to their historical moment.  While looking at these works in relation to theories of gesture produced by Bertolt Brecht, Vilem Flusser, and Giorgio Agamben, the chapter focuses on the act of posing in order to think about the relationship of gesture and image.  In addition, I argue that the idea of gesture – recently very fashionable in media studies – should be supplemented by a concept of posture, and that this concept can help us to understand the way that these works respond to the complex political and representational challenges of their particular historical moment.

Matt Hubbell is a PhD candidate in the department of Cinema and Media Studies.  His work focuses on post-war French film, cinematic figurations of history, and the place of performance, gesture, and the body in moving images.  He is currently working on his dissertation, “Acting After the New Wave: The Political Aesthetics of Performance in France, 1968-1981.”

May 26th, 2017 – Nicole Erin Morse

Please join us on Friday, May 26th at 10:30AM in Cobb 311 for the fourth Spring Quarter meeting of the Mass Culture Workshop. This week we’re excited to welcome Nicole Morse, PhD Candidate in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies. Nicole will be presenting a chapter of their dissertation on selfie aesthetics, titled “Because of You, I Know that I Exist”: Doubling in Selfie Aesthetics.”

Nicole’s paper is available for download here.

Please email either Katerina Korola [katerinakorola@uchicago.edu] or Dave Burnham [burnham@uchicago.edu] for the password.

Refreshments will be provided.

We look forward to seeing you at the workshop!

Your coordinators,

Katerina Korola and Dave Burnham

 


Because of You, I Know that I Exist”: Doubling in Selfie Aesthetics.

This chapter section analyzes doubling as an aesthetic strategy in Claude Cahun’s “self portraits” and argues that doubling is an important aesthetic strategy in selfies, through close readings of selfies by Reina Gossett and Vivek Shraya.

Nicole Erin Morse is a PhD candidate in Cinema and Media Studies, writing a dissertation on selfie aesthetics. Nicole’s research on gender and race in porn, reality television, and art television has been published in Porn Studies, Feminist Media Studies, and Jump Cut.

May 12th, 2017 – Jordan Schonig

Please join us on Friday, May 12th at 10:30AM in Cobb 311 for the third Spring Quarter meeting of the Mass Culture Workshop. This week we welcome Jordan Schonig, PhD Candidate in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies. Jordan will be presenting the introduction to his dissertation on cinematic motion and film theory, titled “Cinema’s Motion Forms.

Jordan’s paper is available for download here.

Please email either Katerina Korola [katerinakorola@uchicago.edu] or Dave Burnham [burnham@uchicago.edu] for the password.

Refreshments will be provided.

We look forward to seeing you at the workshop!

Your coordinators,

Katerina Korola and Dave Burnham

 


Cinema’s Motion Forms challenges the common assumption that the photographic moving image automatically reproduces the natural perception of motion. This assumption undergirds many basic ideas throughout film theory, from claims about the inherent realism of the cinematic image to analogies between the moving camera and human locomotion. Against this, I argue that the movement of the image produces its own logics of experience, which become manifest in particular structures of movement unique to the inscription of motion. By describing and analyzing these structures, what I call cinema’s motion forms, I am able not only to better understand the aesthetic possibilities of cinematic motion but also to rework central debates in film theory. Each chapter shows how a film theoretical assumption depends on a restricted understanding of cinematic motion, and how paying attention to a particular form of motion can produce new theoretical models.

 

Jordan Schonig is a sixth-year PhD candidate in Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago. His dissertation, Cinema’s Motion Forms: Inscribed Motion and the Problems of Film Theory, rethinks central debates in film theory by examining the phenomenology of cinematic motion. He is broadly interested in the intersections between philosophical aesthetics and film theory, phenomenological approaches to film studies, and genealogies of modernism in film and the other arts.