The coordinators of the Chicago Film Seminar have taken the unusual step this year of organizing its yearly slate of speakers around a unified theme, taking Dudley Andrew's recent book What Cinema Is! as either a direct or an indirect point of departure. Here is a copy of the prompt distributed to the invited presenters:
"In What Cinema Is! Bazin's Quest and Its Charge (Blackwell, 2010), Dudley Andrew posits classical cinema—fictional feature films made between 1938-1968—as the norm, not as a way of defending the canon for its own sake, but for the sake of defending 'an instinct of looking and listening' that developed out of long, critical engagement with that form of cinema. For Andrew, 'the legacy surrounding the feature film has caused the most heated and robust debates in film theory,' and if we are to cherish anything in a time of disciplinary upheaval, we should treasure the energy and focus behind those debates. Indeed, 'such debates...have made cinema studies among the liveliest sites in the humanities for the past half-century. The prospect of the decline of those debates is more worrisome than the putative mutation of their topic.'
"For Andrew, then, it all starts and returns to the feature film and 'the intensity and the focus that films invite and sometimes demand.' As long as we define cinema in multiple ways, according to Andrew, we risk losing the focus that created and defined our field. We invite you to present your latest work as an explicit or implicit response to this idea."
Please join us this year for a series of talks that, in their own ways, will take up some of Andrew's concerns, implicitly or explicitly suggesting some direct replies to his claims.
Links: Buy What Cinema Is! from Wiley-Blackwell or from Amazon
In the Comments: Any thoughts already on Andrew's book, or the CFS theme? Any questions you hope we might consider over the course of the year in relation to 'What Cinema Is,' either during our evening sessions or here on the blog?