Lehre SoSe 2010

American Film History – Histories of North-American Cinema and Film

Is cinema evolving? Does it have a coherent, linear development? Are filmic images just a mere reflection of a so called “reality”? Certainly none of that.

What, respectively, do we want to know about a medium, its characteristics, its modes of aesthetic style, its narrative power, its semantic values regarding its chances over time (nearly 130 years by this time)? If we ever agree in saying that film is a powerful cultural technology then we deal with cinema as dispositif. If we are tracking this, the whole realm of economic, socio-cultural and socio-political conditions in all their muddeled connections opens up to our understanding of film as historical medium. The dispositif, as decisively written by Michel Foucault, within a given society, is a set of strategies, composed to react to a critical situation. So, rather, to find smooth and seamless transitions and nice affiliations, we come across clashes, ruptures, deviances, but also lines of flight (in Deleuzian terms) in the history of American cinema and film.

Correspondingly, the course does not aim at neither giving a comprehensive overview or clear notions of eras, genres, or any other “categories” of US-Cinema. Rather, the concept makes cuts and leaps to take into account those strands of the history of American Cinema, that matter – in the sense that subjects, bodies, race, class and gender matter. Such matters could be for instance: the first little clumsy moving pictures that came out of Edisons Black Maria and were distributed in Nickelodeon theatres to please a newly formed mass audience, the cinema of the Progressive Era, dealing with their social problem, the rising of sound in film, that connected space, body and voice differently than ever before on screen, Hays-Code pre-productions, Atomic Bomb and Scientific Revolution films of the Cold War Era, Melodrama as “feminine” filmgenre in the Nixon ear, Underground Cinema, Expanded Cinema, and Blaxploitation of the 1960ies and early 1970ies, New Queer Cinema of the 1990ies, Digital Cinema in the age of globalisms and turbocapitalism.