Screen theory and film culture, 1977-1987.

Nash, Mark (2003) Screen theory and film culture, 1977-1987. PhD thesis, Middlesex University.

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Abstract

My work in the 1970s and 1980s was developed with the evolving body of work now loosely called 'c e theory'. It centred on notions of authorship, spectatorship and art cinema with specific reference to the films of Carl Dreyer. In my research and writing on Dreyer's film Vampyr I applied the literary concept of the fantastigue to cinema, one of the first substantial theoretical contributions to a now established area of publication and research. According to one writer' this work was "probably the most ambitious attempt to apply Todorov's approach to cinema", a "notable exception" in the theoretical writing of that time. This was part of the wider movement associated with SEFT and Screen to interrogate the uncritical realism which dominated 1970s film studies. In my subsequent writing on Dreyer I explored a structuralist but more psychoanalytically informed discussion of genre, developing the concept of the "Dreyer text" as a way of bringing psychoanalytic concepts to compliment and complicate structuralist notions of authorship and genre. I was part of a loose group at Screen which was passionate both about cinema and ideas. While polemically defending the new concepts we were bringing to bear on cinema, we were equally concerned with their institutional placing. Our work concentrated both on regimes of looking allowed to the spectator by texts and their institutional placing. We focussed on political and discursive structures of the cinematic institution and developed a concept of `cinema as social practice'. In particular I pushed for a cultural critique of British Independent cinema and its institutions, which was continued in my work on screen acting. I was also instrumental in extending Screen theory to other visual arts. I felt that the sometime parochialism of film studies lay in part in its separation from analysis of other forms of visual culture. In my full context statement I wish to explore limitations in the political, semiotic and psychoanalytic models which I (as did many others) adopted at the time. What I now see as Screen theory's 'blind spots' in relation to issues of sexual orientation and race can be traced back to the problematic of this period. My own subsequent research on gay and lesbian cinema as well as film and television projects on screen acting (Acting Tapes) psychoanalysis (Between Two Worlds) and Frantz Fanon (Frantz Fanon: Black Skin White Mask) came out of dissatisfaction with that earlier project as it was then conceived. The form chosen - the essay and review - reflects the difficulty of thinking through these issues. [James Donald (ed), 'Fantasy and the Cinema', British Film Institute, London 1989] In essence my proposal involves looking back at my work around Dreyer and what one could broadly call my `film culture' work, and arguing that what was sometimes felt and described as a theory: practice division between these two domains could be more usefully thought of in retrospect in terms of two overlapping modes of theoretical production involving different notions of institution, conjuncture, subject etc. In looking again at the strengths and weaknesses of the work I am submitting here, however, I still expect key terms of subject and history, discourse and institution, to remain in place, modified and nuanced by the substantial range of work in psychoanalysis, cultural studies and queer theory that Screen in part engendered and which my work participated in.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information:

Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of Middlesex University for the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

Research Areas:Theses
School of Media and Performing Arts > Media & Performing Arts
ID Code:6921
Deposited On:24 Jan 2011 10:53
Last Modified:20 Jul 2014 14:31

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