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Body Shots

Early Cinema’s Incarnations

Jonathan Auerbach (Author)


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This original and compelling book places the body at the center of cinema's first decade of emergence and challenges the idea that for early audiences, the new medium's fascination rested on visual spectacle for its own sake. Instead, as Jonathan Auerbach argues, it was the human form in motion that most profoundly shaped early cinema. Situating his discussion in a political and historical context, Auerbach begins his analysis with films that reveal striking anxieties and preoccupations about persons on public display—both exceptional figures, such as 1896 presidential candidate William McKinley, and ordinary people caught by the movie camera in their daily routines. The result is a sharp, unique, and groundbreaking way to consider the turn-of-the-twentieth-century American incarnation of cinema itself.
List of Illustrations

Introduction: Body, Movement, Space
1. Looking In: McKinley at Home
2. Looking Out: Visualizing Self-Consciousness
Interlude. The Vocal Gesture: Sounding the Origins of Cinema
3. Chasing Film Narrative
4. Windows 1900; or, Life of an American Fireman
Conclusion: The Stilled Body

Jonathan Auerbach is Professor of English at the University of Maryland, College Park and is the author of Male Call: Becoming Jack London (1996) and The Romance of Failure: First-Person Fictions of Poe, Hawthorne, and James (1989).
“It is essential reading and serve to remind us of the richness of this period of cinema production for film scholarship.”—Anna Dzenis Screening The Past
“Brings a refreshing perspective to the study of early cinema.”—Abigail Salerno American Literature
“Carefully locating his work in relation to scholarship that has characterized the period as ‘cinema of attractions,’ Auerbach provides a supplement to, rather than a repudiation of, this important scholarship.”—Steve J. Wurtzler Journal Of American History
“Delightful . . . Perhaps most refreshing in Auerbach’s writing is his healthy appetite for the action, and the people acting.”—Year's Work In Critical And Cultural Theory
“Clever, erudite, illuminating, and maddening.”—American Studies Journal
“The best book on early film . . . in ages . . . . It makes films that you may not have seen nevertheless visible, and makes you want to look again with sharper eyes at those you do know.”—Bioscope
Body Shots is a provocative and compelling account of the centrality of corporeal movement and stillness to early cinema. Auerbach puts theory and history into productive conversation, significantly extending our knowledge of the contexts and strategies of cinema in its early years. It is an original and important book.”—Lee Grieveson, author of Policing Cinema: Movies and Censorship in Early Twentieth-Century-America

"With his intense focus on the human body (the body running, the body kissing, the body posing, the body at rest), Jonathan Auerbach has managed to re-dramatize the newness of a new medium in its original decade. The combination of analytical patience, historical precision, and conceptual panache will startle readers into seeing even well-known early American films as though for the first time. In other words: Body Shots will prove to be a shot indeed."—Bill Brown, author of A Sense of Things: The Object Matter of American Literature

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