General Comments about June 6th Presentations

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de Ville, Donna


Premièrement, merci à André pour votre clarification (j'espère que ce mot n'ést pas un faux ami)…
    Yesterday, I had the pleasure of listening to six presentations bookended by Tom Gunning and Jeffrey Sconce, with Alison Griffiths, Haidee Wasson and Barbara Klinger in between. My initial realization was "Wow, I have at some point in my studies, referenced each one of these people who stand before me" - their work has had a great influence on my own. And as I sat and listened to each present his or her area of research, with the exception of Sconce who offered a broader assessment of the field of film theory/studies rather than a niche topic within it (though I know he is no stranger to narrowly focused work), I thought how lucky we are to be part of an academic field of study that encompasses such varied topics as prisons as sites of film consumption, perceptual tricks of early optical devices/toys, studio practice of re-releases in the after market and the portability of projectors in the pre-digital era of film exhibition. No matter how obscure, scholars in our field support the study of and engage seriously with a diverse selection of objects, and there is something very reassuring in that, for lack of a better term, 'democratic' approach to research. 
    Sconce touched upon this motivation that drives many of us in our academic pursuits - the thrill of finding something new and previously unexamined. Bourdieu has discussed this, in terms of curators, as the ideology of discovery. We, as cultural intermediaries of a kind, continually search for these rare gems for intellectual consideration - gaps in the literature that we seek to fill with our enthusiasm for and profound investigation of a highly specialized film-related topic. We mediate between these sometimes forgotten, sometimes cutting edge, sometimes underground practices/objects and our colleagues (I would love to believe we have a farther reach than our own academic circles - extensive though they may be - but that is only sometimes the case). And this mediation often generates vibrant in-depth discussions as we can not help but respond to and offer suggestions for ways of looking at these subjects. Oftentimes it helps re-direct our own work. I'm not pointing out anything we don't all already know, but sometimes stating the obvious provides an opportunity at looking at the bigger picture. I opted for this rather than a nuanced discussion of any one of the provocative lectures I heard… more as a way of saying thank you to all those in our field who contribute to a never-ending pool of fascinating material to contemplate. 
    To end, I turn to the title of Sconce's talk "Occulted Cinema: Is That All There Is?" Unsure whether he is referencing the Peggy Lee song of the same name (post-colon), it still seems an apt connection to make (perhaps more so than the Xanadu clip… just teasing, Jeff). Though, contrary to Lee's dissillusionment with the supposedly speical/absurd events in life, I feel more a sense of relief. As each trend in film (or now moving image/media) studies scholarship comes and goes, we, the academy, continue on. The quest for new avenues of investigation and the relevancy of alternative perspectives persists, and this is a good thing. Fortunately, our field of study is one in which errors in judgment can be made, new methodologies pursued, terminology adopted and discarded, all without too much destruction to our fellow citizens (unlike, say, economics or medicine). And so with great peace of mind, I sign off with Lee's refrain:
Is that all there is, is that all there is
If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing
Let's break out the booze and have a ball
If that's all there is

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