For many critical theorists, it has become second nature to view science with a degree of suspicion. Complicit in the most egregious offenses of the modern era, science has been identified with everything from positivism and instrumental reason to essentialism and biopolitical control. Such skepticism came to a head in the late twentieth century, as leftist thinkers in the humanities sought to undermine a realist approach to scientific knowledge; social transformation seemed to hinge on the unsettling of epistemic certainty and the subversion of all normative, objectivist validity claims. Yet, as philosopher Bruno Latour has argued, the “science wars” now appear outdated in light of geopolitical exigencies, particularly the accelerating process of climate change. The language of social construction and cultural relativism must give way to an emphatic defense of scientific consensus and global, albeit inconvenient, truth.
As Catherine Russell observes in her new book, Archiveology: Walter Benjamin and Archival Film Practices, countless moving images are now easily accessible for recycling and remixing. No longer the primary domain of experimental artists, the retrieval and reassembling of audiovisual fragments have become widespread creative practices in contemporary media: “The death of ‘film’ and the rise of digital media,” she notes, “have effectively enabled and produced a new critical language that we are only really learning to speak.”
Translation, broadly conceived, has been an underlying theme for much of my own research and work recently, but it is a subject that Tessa Dwyer has obviously thought through on many levels, for many years. I must admit, when I first read this book, I expected it to be bounded by the discipline of translation studies. I was very pleasantly surprised to see that Dwyer addresses so much more. From the outset of Speaking in Subtitles she asserts that translation in any media form entails risk. This gambit is an effective way to encourage readers to question their own positionalities vis-a-vis the subject and object of translation in film. What is at stake when shifting the hierarchies between sound, image, and words in a film? What is lost? What is gained? What might be a vestigial artifact or unexpected outcome?
There are many Flaherty Film Seminars. The one I first encountered was the image of a staid, cliquish institution, as shared by Jonas Mekas in his Lost Lost Lost (1976). In one extended sequence, recorded in 1963, Mekas, Ken Jacobs, and several of their friends try to crash the week-long gathering in rural Vermont with the hopes of screening Jack Smith’s Flaming Creatures (1963) and Jacobs’s Blonde Cobra (1963). They’re turned away, but no bother: the group sleeps outside in their truck and film themselves rising with the sun.
It is not uncommon for me to pick up a book—any kind of book—and as I begin to read it, to make mental notes of elements of the story or facts that intersect with my own experiences. I am certain that I am not alone in this practice of suturing myself into these written realms. Film scholars have been developing multiple theories regarding notions of subject formation ever since Jacques Lacan first developed the concept in the 1950s–60s. From Daniel Dayan and Pierre Oudart to Jacques Alain-Miller to Christian Metz to Stephen Heath to Laura Mulvey to Kaja Silverman, despite this post-post–ad infinitum structural moment, debates on the logic of the signifier persist in film and media studies.
Over the past few years “Page Views” has become a space for FQ to highlight some of the most compelling new scholarship in the field of film and media studies. In collaboration with university presses and scholars, “Page Views” provides a dynamic showcase for critical texts and allows authors the opportunity to think through the impact of their works on the crossover audience that remains a hallmark of FQ’s readership. This column marks the first time that Associate Editor Regina Longo interviews two authors of two books written specifically for the crossover audience. Noah Isenberg discusses We’ll Always Have Casablanca: The Life, Legend, and Afterlife of Hollywood’s Most Beloved Movie and Glenn Frankel talks about High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic.
FQ Associate Editor Regina Longo talks with Rosalind Galt and Karl Schoonover about their book Queer Cinema in the World. From the introductory pages the co-authors plot a course for their readers by mapping the themes they will address throughout the book: counterpublics, covert and overt identities, and the legibility of sexuality and politics across and between different (social, political, economic, national, regional, linguistic) cultures and different cinematic cultures.
FQ Associate Editor interviews film scholar Michael Boyce Gillespie on his new book Film Blackness and the Idea of Black Film. Gillespie begins his book with a series of questions that seem to be posed to reader and author alike, for he declares that this book is “driven by the belief that the idea of black film is always a question, never an answer,” and pushes the reader to think through some of the past and present iterations of blackness in American culture and media. Gillespie shows that there have always been multiple ways of being black, becoming black, performing blackness, challenging blackness, embodying blackness, defying blackness, and transcending the conventional understanding of blackness. Read the column then download a selection from the book made available thanks to Duke University Press.
Laura Horak’s first monograph, Girls Will Be Boys: Cross-Dressed Women, Lesbians, and American Cinema, 1908–1934, is refreshing and invigorating. In a moment when pop culture is ablaze with stories of the “novelty” of transgender and gender nonconforming people, FQ Associate editor Regina Longo was delighted to sink into a thoroughly researched book on this subject that was ten years in the making. Read the column and then download the free chapter of the book offered here for FQ readers.
FQ Associate Editor Regina Longo interviews film scholars and theorists Anton Kaes, Nicholas Baer, and Michael Cowan on their latest labor of love. The Promise of Cinema is an extraordinary anthology of primary source texts of German-language film theory, originally published between 1907 and 1933, with well over 250 carefully curated texts appearing for the first time in English-language translation. Read the column then read selects from the anthology chosen by its editors for FQ’s readers.