Check out our landing page featuring UC Press across various disciplines, including Art, Music, Visual Culture, and Cinema & Media Studies. Save 30% online with discount code 17W6815, or request an exam copy for consideration to use in your upcoming classes. The discount code expires September 30, 2017.
In celebration of LGBTQ History Month this October, enjoy free access to articles from Feminist Media Histories, a journal that examines the role gender has played in media technologies across a range of historical periods and global contexts. These must-read articles will be freely available throughout the month of October.
Lisa Ben’s “Cinema Ramblings” in the 1940s underground publication Vice Versa mark some of the first media reviews to focus on homosexual themes, representations, and subtexts from a self-proclaimed lesbian perspective. While still largely unknown, the critical lenses and stylistic methods she employed set a precedent for the kind of radical queer media criticism that reviewers engage in today.
This article reconstructs queer popular culture as a way of exploring media production studies as a trans history project. Miller argues that queer and trans insights into gender are indispensable to feminist media studies. The article looks at The Ugliest Girl in Town series (ABC, 1968–69), a satire amplifying a purported real-life fad in flat chests, short haircuts, and mod wigs, to restore texture to the everyday landscape of popular entertainment.
This essay offers a microhistory of the feminist film distributor Moonforce Media. Between 1975 and 1980, Moonforce Media built the National Women’s Film Circuit, a lesbian feminist distribution system that circulated preconstituted packages of multigeneric feminist films through as wide a nontheatrical feminist U.S. market as possible.
This essay investigates the ways in which Barbara Hammer’s film Nitrate Kisses (1992) traces stories about homosexuality throughout the twentieth century. Inspired both by the concept of “vertical cinema,” as theorized by Maya Deren, and by the historical-philosophical reflections of Michel Foucault and Walter Benjamin, Hammer realizes a montage process in Nitrate Kisses that resurrects a forgotten historical memory through the juxtaposition of archival materials and original images. It is a memory that is reappropriated through the film as an experiential, tactile, and emotional moment.
We are very pleased to announce that Raina Polivka will be joining the University of California Press as our new acquisitions editor in Music and Cinema & Media Studies.
Raina is currently an acquisitions editor at Indiana University Press, where she acquires books in music and cinema, in addition to several other humanities areas. She holds masters degrees in both library science and comparative literature from Indiana.
We are delighted that Raina will bring not only her knowledge and experience in both music and cinema to the press, but her passion for scholarly communication and her genuine warmth.
In her words:
“University of California Press has long been a leader in publishing and scholarly communication, pushing the industry into new directions. I am delighted to join such an innovative and creative organization, to uphold a high standard of scholarship, and to further contribute to the fields of music, film, and media studies in major and lasting ways.”
As the publisher who wants to bring more of “what’s new?” to the world the Society for Cinema and Media Studies is a feast of timely possibilities: we are all steeped in audio-visual media every day, and SCMS is a great place to learn about, and understand the many ways that our lives are influenced and affected by it all. As a representative of a progressive university press, always looking for work that explores what it means to be an engaged citizen, this year’s program offered plenty of enticing possibilities: a plethora of ways to understand the performances and genres we consume on screen; grapples with newest ways (legal or not, free or not) to access moving image content; rich introductions to the cutting-edge moving image work in galleries; the in’s and out’s of media industries around the world; thought-provoking work on how and why what we watch is (and isn’t) regulated and controlled and by whom. It was great to see so many panels that addressed teaching: there was a lot of energy dedicated to talking about the best ways to introduce students to great films, to great texts, to important concepts about media literacy, to raise awareness of active and intelligent consumption.
Mary Francis, Acquisitions Editor, reports back from the Society of Cinema & Media Studies annual conference, held this year in Seattle.
I’ve been going to this conference for more than a decade. The society was previously called the Society for Cinema Studies; the ‘M’ for “media” was added to reflect the wide range of topics that are now part of the society’s remit: cinema of all sorts (commercial, documentary, experimental, industrial), television, radio, games, social media and personal tech, surveillance technology, and much more. This expansion into new areas of scholarly inquiry is driven by the many changes in contemporary media industries, consumer behavior, the economy, government regulation of media, etc. This is a very exciting time to be publishing in this field, and I am working to shape our list to reflect the best and most dynamic work in these new areas.
As with all academic conferences, having so many researchers together (this year there were more than 1800 scholars, grad students, and writers in attendance) makes is easy to take the pulse of a field: what are the hot trends and new ideas for research, what are the topics that people are teaching new classes on, where are new departments and degrees being offered. News of the field also comes via checking out what other publishers are doing. Checking out the new books from our competitors is a great way to suss out what is happening in the field: I am aware of what competing publishers tend to specialize in, but publishing is very dynamic these days, so I pay close attention to shifts in the types of topics and products that our competitors are working on.
But the bulk of my time is dedicated to one-on-one meetings with scholars. We have been publishing in this area longer than any other academic press, and so there are always many authors who have an existing relationship with the press to check in with about their latest projects. But I spend a great deal of my time talking with people who are not yet working with the Press. I target new authors whom I want to woo, people who are writing on topics I think are crucial to the field. Some are very established scholars who might produce a “Big Book” that defines a subfield; some are productive mid-career scholars with proven track records or up-and-coming stars working in new areas that I want to bring to our list. I always keep my eyes and ears (and schedule, when possible!) open for entirely unplanned encounters. Great ideas for projects that I didn’t have on my radar always come up at these conferences.
I’m there to acquire the best scholarship and to keep my list healthy and active, I have to think about short, medium, and long-range projects. I look for cutting edge projects that ought to be published in a timely way, within a year. But I also have to keep the three-to-five-to-seven year plans in mind as well. Different types of books take different amounts of time to research and write—not to mention the fact that every author has their own pace and style of work. You certainly need a nimble mental calendar!
The many changes in cinema and media mean that the field is growing fast. It can be difficult to stay on top of fast-moving trends, but also exciting. Scholars are talking a lot more about television, for example. It’s ironic in some ways, because television literally isn’t what it used to be. With the exception of live sports or breaking news, the old version of television—a few large networks, shows tied to certain time frames and eight or nine month seasons—that’s largely gone. But television is thriving as it never has before. There’s a lot of creative energy (particularly among writers) and a lot of financial resources are being pushed towards post-broadcast television. Programming is very different from what it used to be, with the advent of so-called reality TV, shorter seasons for dramatic series, etc. The way people watch television is changing too. Not only can you watch on a range of devices, but you can choose when and how much of your favorite TV shows to watch—for example “binge watching” where you watch an entire season of your favorite show over one weekend. Almost every aspect of television is in transition right now—it’s crazy.
When it comes to cinema, there are a lot of changes as well. If television is like a serialized novel, film is more like opera. It takes more resources than television, it’s on a larger scale, it is very international nowadays, it has different storytelling and genre conventions. But personal tech and consumer behavior have changed how commercial films are made nowadays. In particular, people are watching film on smaller and smaller screens: most films are no longer being watched on a large-scale screen in a theatre, but on a domestic screen like a flat screen TV, a laptop screen, or a little smartphone screen. If you’re directing a film to be shown on the big screen you can do certain things that will not work if someone is watching on a smaller screen—and many directors readily admit that this is changing the way they shoot.
Another very interesting topic is the place of film and video in the art world now. The moving image has had a presence in the gallery for many decades. But that has exploded in recent years. There is a lot of fruitful crossover between cinema studies and art history nowadays, and since we publish in both fields, this has been a very welcome development that has guided my work in parallel with that of our art editor.
Film and television as an area of study is becoming more interdisciplinary. For instance the overlap between art history and cinema studies is clear, and those scholars are pretty fluent in each other’s languages. Discussions of economic and industrial developments, trends in technology and government regulation, etc. compel an interdisciplinary approach, because to understand what’s happening you can’t just look at what’s on the screen. You have to explore historical issues like how the federal government regulates the media; economic issues such as the finances of shorter television seasons or the challenge of declining audiences for theaters; and the ever-challenging changes in consumer behavior. There is still a lot of fine scholarship on the content and its artistic merits. But things are changing and the range of topics in the field is wider than ever.
Released in January, my book Videoland has turned out to be something of an elegy, even an obituary, for the video store. Although certain stores and chains continue to flourish (Family Video in particular), the greater brick-and-mortar video rental business has largely vanished. Even great specialty stores that seemed to have strong community support are faltering. Le Video, the immense and venerable store in San Francisco, is currently conducting a fundraising campaign to prevent closing on May 15. Many other fantastic stores, including Scarecrow Video in Seattle (featured prominently in my book), are in imminent danger of shutting their doors for good.
Lately, I have been struck by the wave of nostalgic affection for video culture that has attended the disappearance of video stores. Numerous articles and online think pieces lament the loss of these places, and not one but two feature-length documentaries about video culture have been released, Rewind This! and Adjust Your Tracking: The Untold Story of the VHS Collector. The trailer for Rewind This! gives a good sense of its accomplishments.
In telling the story of video’s impact on the world, Rewind This! focuses particularly on the way video facilitated the production and consumption of low-brow, “trashy” movies and genres. Along these lines, Adjust Your Tracking is not so much about video stores as it is about a subculture of VHS collectors who mainly collect obscure cult movies. One segment from the film details a collector who created a video store in his basement, like a model train collector who builds tiny villages full of plastic people.
Here, the affection for video goes hand in hand with an affinity for the space of the video store. Yet most of the subjects in this movie don’t celebrate video stores as much as they celebrate the size and breadth of their personal collections; indeed, a number of these people seem to have acquired many of their VHS tapes from video stores that were going out of business. In many ways, their veneration of the video store and video culture would not be possible without its demise.
With their shared interest in cult cinema, Rewind This! and Adjust Your Tracking paint a picture of video culture that seems strangely informed by the current decimation of the brick-and-mortar rental business. Simply put, the trashing of the video store has prompted some people to reflect on the trashiness of video as a medium. And the sense of nostalgia found in these movies also seems specific to this historical moment. Their retrospective celebration of the 1980s, of VHS tapes, and of the video store appears like a rejection of the present conditions of media culture, where Video-on-Demand and internet streaming services dominate.
These movies are just as much about the present moment as they are about the past. And, soon enough they will become historical documents in their own right. They will not only provide records of video culture, but will illustrate how the story of video was told at a particular time. It will be interesting, as time goes on, to see how this sentimentality for video will evolve and to see what new things we will become nostalgic about. While Videoland tells one part of the history of video, I am excited to see that history continue to unfold – even as it incorporates its own historiography.
Daniel Herbert is Assistant Professor of Screen Arts and Cultures at the University of Michigan. Read a review of his new book Videoland on SantaCruz.com and listen to an interview with Herbert on Wisconsin Public Radio.
Film Quarterly has been publishing substantial, peer-reviewed writing on motion pictures since 1958, earning a reputation as the most authoritative academic film journal in the United States. Its wide array of topics, perspectives, and approaches appeals to film scholars and film buffs alike.
When we watch a film, we experience it with eyes and ears, but also connect with it in a way that awakens our senses of touch, movement, and emotion, says Jennifer M. Barker, author of The Tactile Eye. In her interview on ROROTOKO last week, Barker illustrates how a film invites us to see and feel the world through its eyes, as if the film had a body of its own. Barker explores the three areas of touch—skin, musculature, and viscera—that are engaged between cinema and spectator, and illustrates how watching a film is a kind of mutual possession. Film and viewer are not entirely separate entities, but engulf one another for a time and then emerge again, as she shows in the example of James Williamson’s 1901 film, The Big Swallow (below). This scene, says Barker, embodies perfectly the all-consuming yet transitory nature of the encounter between film and viewer: “The Big Swallow forces the question, where are we in this picture? The ambiguity of Williamson’s film suggests the tactile, corporeal, reversible contact between film and spectator, who embrace or even ingest one other—in both directions—and yet do not disappear into one another entirely. The Big Swallow depicts quite literally and imaginatively the intimate and tactile crossover of the inside and the outside, of the subject and the object of this tactile vision.”