Reply to Andrée's Reading List

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Lapointe, Julien


If Andrée wanted to disagree with me, I'm not sure she really succeeded  -- though I might welcome the suggestion to read Kuhn as well as Toulmin, as long as we keep in mind that Toulmin's Human Understanding was written in part to substantially refute The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, whose deliberations on "paradigms," moreover, were meant to apply to the hard sciences exclusively. I wasn't "advocating" that Film Studies adopt a disciplinary model, or even that some scholars in the field, such as Bordwell, do so. I was quite clear as well that I was going to hold back on commenting as to the limits or advantages of attempting to turn Film Studies into a discipline. I'm personally not sure if Film Studies can attain disciplinary status, as Toulmin defines it, but thinking about these issues nonetheless seemed to complement Sconce's talk. (On the topic of the Livingston quote, I think I did mention that I found it unfair, but it nonetheless characterized a certain attitude towards so-called "culturalists" which prevails in the academe). 
My point was simply that thinking of a discipline as seeking to resolve a genealogy of problems is a helpful way of considering how Bordwell and others frame their research programs -- particularly the proximity between Toulmin's account of what a disciplinary model of the study of the Fine Arts would look like and Bordwell-Thompson-Staiger's study of the "typical film." And that citing Toulmin bibliographically would therefore be useful and one could say essential to a study which attempts to contextualise The Classical Hollywood Cinema within the field of Film Studies epistemologically. No doubt scientific study and non-scientific disciplines are aided and abetted by institutional infrastructures, as well as other material (and even "irrational") factors -- something for which Toulmin accounts.  But simply calling his arguments "idealistic," in the absence of substantial evidence from the history of scientific inquiry or the history of rational inquiry, is not just closeted cynicism (to paraphrase Andrée's self-reference), but also name-calling. If Andrée has problems, from a historical standpoint, with invoking the genealogical model for studying the production of knowledge, she's kept those in the closet as well. 
Let me add to that I'm not sure how useful Kuhn is to Film Studies, even without taking into account his disclaimer that he was interested in the hard sciences only. But if Andrée can point to specific arguments in Kuhn and how they correlate to actual developments in the study of cinema, I will happily push him to the top of my summer reading list.
Finally, my polemical and perhaps confrontational tone not withstanding, I wish to thank Andrée for her intellectually productive post and am glad to see she takes these issues seriously.

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