Fwd: Modernism and the Movies

Ono Seiko and Aaron Gerow onogerow
Wed Apr 19 09:17:49 EDT 2000

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From:   Wallace Watson [watson at duq.edu]


I call to your attention the seminar, "Modernism and the Movies," which I
will convene at the conference of the Modernist Studies Association 
12-15 at the University of Pennsylvania. Participants will be expected to
circulate short papers (no more than seven pages long) relevant to the
topic, as well as brief comments on the papers, to each other by email
several weeks prior to the conference. This should help us make the best
possible use of our two-hour seminar session at the conference. Seminar
participants will be selected on a first-come, first-served basis.

Here is the official announcement of the seminar:

Modernism and the Movies:  Likely topics for discussion:
the participation of cinema in early twentieth-century
literary and other artistic avant-garde movements;
modernist strategies in postwar European new wave
cinemas; commercial considerations; adaptations of
modernist fiction.

Here is a more detailed description, from my proposal to the conference:

The central problem would be the relationships between narrative films and
Modernism in the other arts. Some specific questions I would expect to be

1. Is Gerald Mast correct in alleging (in A SHORT HISTORY OF THE MOVIES)
that "postwar European cinema brought the movies into the mainstream of
Modernism," producing effects analogous to "nonrepresentational painting,
atonal music, absurd drama . . . the stream-of-consciousness novel . . .,
self-conscious questioning of all social and moral values, the duty to
`make it new,' the study of perception, the determination to work
creatively with fragmentation . . . , and the self-conscious manipulation
of the conventions of the art itself"?
2. If this is generally true, what are some major instances of these
parallels with literary Modernism and how do they achieve these effects?
And what are some important exceptions, e.g., "Modernist" films made 
World War II?
3. To what extent does the history of narrative cinema in the twentieth
century parallel the historical development of prose fiction since the
eighteenth century, or since the beginning of the nineteenth?
4. How has the status of narrative cinema as a largely popular art form
affected its ability to participate in international Modernism? Is
Modernist film largely an art-house phenomenon? Are there major 
in this respect between the North America and Europe? To what extent have
the film industries of Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Central and 
America participated in a Modernist film "movement"?
5. To what extent is irony, so central to Modernist literature, a feature
of films we might label as Modernist? How does film narrative signal 
6. To what extent have film adaptations of Modernist fiction been made in
Modernist cinematic style?
7. Is there a difference between Modernist and Postmodernist cinema?

Complete information on the conference, including procedures for signing 
for seminars, is available from Gail McDonald at the University of North
Carolina-Greensboro (g_mcdona at uncg.edu).

Wallace Watson
Duquesne University

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