Oct 11, 2019 — Amy Skjerseth

Please join us on Friday, Oct 11, 2019 from 11:00am-12:30pm in Cobb 311 for the first meeting of the Mass Culture Workshop of the academic year 2019-20.

We are delighted to have Amy Skjerseth, PhD Candidate, Cinema and Media Studies, University of Chicago. She will be presenting a draft of an article titled: “Multiplying Mise-en-Scène: Lip-Sync Mash-Ups of The Night of the Hunter in Lewis Klahr’s Daylight Moon and Jean-Luc Godard’s Histoire(s) du Cinema”.

Amy’s text is available for download here.

Please do not circulate without permission. Email either Sophie (sophielynch@uchicago.edu) or Tanya (tanyad@uchicago.edu) for the password.

Refreshment will be provided.

We look forward to seeing you!

Yours in Mass Cult,

Sophie and Tanya


Multiplying Mise-en-Scène: Lip-Sync Mash-Ups of The Night of the Hunter in Lewis Klahr’s Daylight Moon and Jean-Luc Godard’s Histoire(s) du Cinema

This article draft examines how music and spectators’ embodied memories collide in the cult film The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955) and two contemporary films that appropriate its audio-visual material. While film scholars mainly have described mise-en-scène as a visual phenomenon, I follow Michel Mourlet in redefining mise-en-scène elements as multisensory “contours” that address both characters’ and spectators’ bodies. I closely read audio-visual contours in Hunter where sonic textures trigger viewers’ haptic memories to elicit thematic and affective affiliations with the child protagonists as they escape from the evil Preacher Powell.
Then, I turn to two films that mash-up the infamous river escape sequence and lip-sync it to opposite ideological ends. Jean-Luc Godard’s Histoire(s) du Cinema 2A (1997) fetishizes Hunter’s images along with those of a young Julie Delpy as she reads Baudelaire’s “Le Voyage.” Lewis Klahr’s Daylight Moon (2012) imports Hunter‘s soundtrack record album where Laughton narrates score excerpts to create a stop-motion collage suburban crime tale. Both films rely on sound to recall multisensory experiences of childlike imagination, but where Godard amplifies animal mating calls to sexualize Delpy’s untouched feminine nature, Klahr reanimates the good versus evil battle in Hunter‘s score to entreat spectators to play with the ephemeral vestiges of memory. As pre-existing music multiplies relations between films and viewers, these cases suggest a multisensory model of mise-en-scène in which spectators hear sounds both as found objects and as haptic harbingers of memory.

Amy Skjerseth is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago and co-organizer of the Great Lakes Association for Sound Studies. She has a B.M. in Oboe Performance from the Eastman School of Music and a B.A. and M.A. in English from University of Rochester and McGill, respectively. Her work explores gendered and technological effects of sound synchronization through the heuristic of “lip sync” in postwar media from avant-garde film to music video.

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.’

April 26 — James J. Hodge

Please join us on Friday, April 26, 2019 at 11:00am in Cobb 311 for the second meeting of the Mass Culture Workshop for the Spring Quarter. We are delighted to welcome James J. Hodge, Assistant Professor in the Department of English and the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities at Northwestern University. Professor Hodge will be presenting a talk entitled “The Subject of Always-On Computing.” An abstract is available below.

There will be no pre-circulated paper. Instead, we invite you to please watch Professor Hodge’s recently published video essay, “Touch”
http://www.triquarterly.org/node/303191


We look forward to seeing you on Friday. As always, refreshments will be provided.

Yours in Mass Culture,

Cooper and Gary

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Discussions of personhood in the context of always-on computing (the milieu of smartphones, social media, and ubiquitous wireless networks) typically casts personhood as deeply compromised, damaged, or somehow insufficient. This paper takes a different approach, which neither valorizes nor demonizes the subject of always-on computing, but rather seeks to account for the primacy of touch and sensation in our historical present. To develop a vocabulary appropriate to this situation, the paper argues that object relations psychoanalyst Thomas Ogden’s theorization of the “autistic-contiguous position” of subjectivity becomes newly vital. Along the way, the paper discusses the animated GIF and the supercut as two prominent sites for thinking through the aesthetic negotiation of these issues. This presentation is part of a new book project in development, tentatively entitled “Gifts of Ubiquity: The Aesthetic Sensorium of Always-On Computing.”

James J. Hodge is assistant professor in the Department of English and the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities at Northwestern University. His book Sensations of History: Animation and New Media Art is forthcoming this fall from the University of Minnesota Press. His current research in digital media studies focuses on the rise of new networked genres such as the animated GIF and the supercut.

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.