Article

Film Theory

Krin Gabbard

in Cinema and Media Studies

ISBN: 9780199791286
Published online October 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0030
Film Theory

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Film theory came into its own in the late 1960s and early 1970s, thanks primarily to essays published in journals such as Screen in the United Kingdom and Cahiers du cinema and Communications in France. The first American journal to sign on to the cause was Camera Obscura, which carried the subtitle “A Journal of Feminism and Film Theory” on its first cover in 1976. But thoughtful attempts to make sense of movies appeared almost as soon as the first feature films. Although not included in this bibliography, the cinema aesthetics of Vachel Lindsay and the psychological analyses by Hugo Münsterberg might be called the first wave of film theory. But the argument between Sergei Eisenstein (montage creates meaning) and André Bazin (cinema and reality are ontologically related) represents the beginnings of film theory as we now know it. Shortly after it developed as an academic discipline in the 1970s, cinema and media studies established an affinity for “grand theory,” the exhaustively explanatory theses rooted in the work of Sigmund Freud, Claude Lévi-Strauss, and Karl Marx and subsequently developed by French philosophers and critics such as Roland Barthes, Jacques Lacan, Michel Foucault, and Louis Althusser. Before the advent of theory, cinema study had been historical, formalist, and naively evaluative. Theory brought a level of professionalism to the discipline and helped it gain academic legitimacy. The reign of theory, however, was contested even as it was emerging. Many of the critics of grand theory looked to less ambitious modes of theorizing, most notably cognitive psychology. Meanwhile, scholars insisting on the importance of gender, race, social class, and nation have developed new modes of theorizing that bear little resemblance to the paradigms of grand theory. Regardless, in the early years of the 21st century, few areas in cinema and media study have not been thoroughly theorized and re-theorized.

Article.  8760 words. 

Subjects: Media Studies ; Film ; Radio ; Television

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