Inventing Film Studies

Inventing Film Studies

Book Pages: 480 Illustrations: 31 illustrations, 2 tables Published: November 2008

American Studies, Media Studies > Film

Inventing Film Studies offers original and provocative insights into the institutional and intellectual foundations of cinema studies. Many scholars have linked the origins of the discipline to late-1960s developments in the academy such as structuralist theory and student protest. Yet this collection reveals the broader material and institutional forces—both inside and outside of the university—that have long shaped the field. Beginning with the first investigations of cinema in the early twentieth century, this volume provides detailed examinations of the varied social, political, and intellectual milieus in which knowledge of cinema has been generated. The contributors explain how multiple instantiations of film study have had a tremendous influence on the methodologies, curricula, modes of publication, and professional organizations that now constitute the university-based discipline. Extending the historical insights into the present, contributors also consider the directions film study might take in changing technological and cultural environments.

Inventing Film Studies shows how the study of cinema has developed in relation to a constellation of institutions, technologies, practices, individuals, films, books, government agencies, pedagogies, and theories. Contributors illuminate the connections between early cinema and the social sciences, between film programs and nation-building efforts, and between universities and U.S. avant-garde filmmakers. They analyze the evolution of film studies in relation to the Museum of Modern Art, the American Film Council movement of the 1940s and 1950s, the British Film Institute, influential journals, cinephilia, and technological innovations past and present. Taken together, the essays in this collection reveal the rich history and contemporary vitality of film studies.

Contributors: Charles R. Acland, Mark Lynn Anderson, Mark Betz, Zoë Druick, Lee Grieveson, Stephen Groening, Haden Guest, Amelie Hastie, Lynne Joyrich, Laura Mulvey, Dana Polan,
D. N. Rodowick, Philip Rosen, Alison Trope, Haidee Wasson, Patricia White, Sharon Willis,
Peter Wollen, Michael Zryd


Inventing Film Studies goes a long way toward redressing claims by historians such as Eric Smoodin that film studies is one of the most under-historicized disciplines in the humanities. In conjunction with other recently published works, the pluralistic history of motion picture study is beginning to be mapped out by Grieveson and Wasson’s excellent anthology.” — Stephen Michael Charbonneau, International Journal of Communication

Inventing Film Studies is essential reading for anyone interested in the history of film studies as an academic endeavor. . . . [I]t clearly sets the agenda for further research into the history of film studies. The editors also more than adequately fulfill their goal of identifying the intellectual and institutional spaces where film studies first germinated.” — Jan-Christopher Horak, Screening the Past

“[A] lively collection. . . . Of equal interest to scholars and nonspecialists, this volume should be in all serious film collections. Highly recommended. All readers, all levels.” — G. A. Foster, Choice

“[F]or a field that doesn’t look into its own past or genealogize its own methodological assumptions with the regularity of other disciplines. . .Inventing Film Studies represents an excellent opportunity for solidifying underdocumented or underknown histories, and taking stock of where to go next.” — Michael Sicinski, Cineaste

“[T]he book is the first to seek to tell the story of this discipline from its birth in the early twentieth-century to the present. . . . Inventing Film Studies . . . will be of interest to academics working in many different areas of cinema studies.” — Matthew Campora, M/C Reviews

“The collection’s fourteen essays focus on specific episodes in the Anglo study of film; however, the cumulative effect produces a rich mosaic of film studies, a field that has always been porous, interdisciplinary, and bound to other institutions. . . . Inventing Film Studies is a tremendous contribution to the field and should be welcomed by the community of film and media scholars.” — Eric Hoyt, Moving Image

“This collection contributes new understandings to the history of film studies, particularly regarding the discipline’s development in the humanities and its gradual abandonment of the methodological practices of the social sciences, in which it had its origins. Inventing Film Studies will be welcomed by academics working in cinema studies, and it will provide new entrants to the field with an important introduction to the history of their study.” — Richard Maltby, author of Hollywood Cinema

“This is the best film book that I’ve read in years. It covers the history of film studies, certainly the least historicized discipline in the humanities and social sciences. Contributors show that the field dates at least to the early twentieth century and that it can be traced through a number of institutions: not just the academy but also government, the museum, and the publishing industry, to name just three. Lee Grieveson and Haidee Wasson have produced a book that will change the way film scholars think about their field.” — Eric Smoodin, co-editor of Looking Past the Screen: Case Studies in American Film History and Method


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Lee Grieveson is Reader in Film Studies and Director of the Graduate Programme in Film Studies at University College London. He is the author of Policing Cinema: Movies and Censorship in Early-Twentieth-Century America and a co-editor of The Silent Cinema Reader.

Haidee Wasson is Associate Professor of Cinema at Concordia University. She is the author of Museum Movies: The Museum of Modern Art and the Birth of Art Cinema.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

The Academy and Motion Pictures / Lee Grieveson and Haidee Wasson xi

Making Cinema Knowable

Cinema Studies and the Conduct of Conduct / Lee Grieveson 3

Taking Liberties: The Payne Fund Studies and the Creation of the Media Expert / Mark Lynn Anderson 38

"Reaching the Multimillions": Liberal Internationalism and the Establishment of Documentary Film / Zoe Druick 66

Young Art, Old Colleges: Early Episodes in the American Study of Film / Dana Polan 93

Making Cinema Educational

Studying Movies at the Museum: The Museum of Modern Art and Cinema's Changing Object / Haidee Wasson 121

Classrooms, Clubs, and Community Circuits: Cultural Authority and the Film Council Movement, 1946-1957 / Charles R. Acland 149

Experimental Film and the Development of Film Study in America / Michael Zryd 182

From Cinephilia to Film Studies / Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen 217

Making Cinema Legible

Experimentation and Innovation in Three American Film Journals of the 1950s / Haden Guest 235

Screen and 1970s Film Theory / Philip Rosen 264

(Re)Inventing Camera Obscura / Amelia Hastie, Lynne Joyrich, Patricia White, and Sharon Willis 298

Little Books / Mark Betz 319

Making and Remaking Cinema Studies

Footstool Film School: Home Entertainment as Home Education / Alison Trope 353

Dr. Strange Media, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Film Theory / D. N. Rodowick 374


Timeline for a History of Anglophone Film Culture and Film Studies / Stephen Groening 399

Selected Bibliography 419

About the Contributors 425

Index 429

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4307-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4289-2
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