PhD Scholarships in Australian Film, Television and Media History

Three full-time, funded, scholarships available for PhD candidates to undertake research into Utilitarian Filmmaking in Australia 1945 – 1980, as part of a four-year Australian Research Council funded Discovery Project. This ground-breaking project will discover, document, analyse and compile a lasting archive of Utilitarian Filmmaking in Australia. ‘Utilitarian’ describes client-sponsored, instructional and governmental filmmaking existing outside the conventional theatrical contexts by which cinema is usually defined. The project will engage with major cultural institutions to generate conferences, books, articles, exhibitions and interactive archives as well as the three PhD dissertations. The successful applicants will become part of a leading research team across three Australian universities (University of Canberra, Murdoch University, Monash University,) and have the opportunity to work with experienced senior supervisors in traditional research modes as well as cutting edge, practice-led research outputs.

Expressions of interest are sought from outstanding candidates for PhD study in a wide range of fields including, but not limited to: screen studies, archival studies, cultural studies, communication studies, Australian history.

  • For further details eligibility criteria and forms:
    • University of Canberra: http:/www.canberra.edu.au/research/faculty-research- centres/cccr/about-us
    • Murdoch University: http://www.murdoch.edu.au/Future-students/Domestic-students/Postgraduate/Degrees-by-research/
    • Monash University: http://artsonline.monash.edu.au/graduate-research-
    programs/phd-scholarship-in-australian-film-television-media-history/
    
    Deadline for expressions of interest: 19 February 2016
    Enquiries:

    • Professor Ross Gibson: Ross.Gibson@canberra.edu.au
    • Associate Professor Mick Broderick: m.broderick@murdoch.edu.au
    • Associate Professor Deane Williams: deane.williams@monash.edu
  •  

    Public Lecture: Lesley Stern – How Does (the) Cinema Feel About (the) Animal?

    On Thursday November 12th, renowned film scholar Professor Lesley Stern presented a public lecture at the Monash Conference Centre. Sponsored by the Film and Screen Studies Program, the School of Media, Film and Journalism and the Faculty of Arts, Monash University, Professor Stern presented an incredibly smart and beautifully written paper, theorising what the cinema feels about the animal and in turn what those affects tell us about the cinema more broadly. Her talk was attended by people from cinema and cultural studies programs across Melbourne, and it generated a much needed discussion about the relationship between the burgeoning field of animal studies and film studies.

    In the cinema all things are potentially equal: objects, people, animals. All things come into being—come alive, acquire performative powers—through cinematic magic. But even though the cinema is not exclusively human it has surely been permeated by the spirit of human exceptionalism. Bad blood enshrouds the inception of cinema, and its legacy is a haunting. When we watch movies today we cannot avoid the presence of ghosts: slaughtered elephants, galloping horses, sacrificial dogs, carnivorous bears—all hover and materialize and enter our dreams. Much recent work in cinema studies has turned attention to the place of the animal in the cinema and this paper is enabled by such work. However, rather than thinking through generalities my attention is caught, today, by moments of sensuous intensity, by fragments and scenes from various films in which animals and people and places are brought into strangely affective alliance. Reaching from Buster Keaton’s Go West to Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Tropical Malady, the paper will speculate on how films (via modes of mimeticism, empathetic projection, animistic gestures) might affect and change the way we feel and identify across differences.

    Professor Lesley Stern is the author of Dead and Alive: The Body as Cinematic Thing, The Smoking Book and The Scorsese Connection, and co-editor of Falling For You: Essays on Cinema and Performance. Her work moves between a number of disciplinary locations and spans both theory and production: although her reputation was established in the fields of film theory and history, she is also known for her fictocritical writing. Her work has been highly influential in the areas of film, performance, photography, cultural history, postcolonialism, feminism and gardening/ecocriticism.

     

    Martin launches Mise en Scène and Film Style

    Adrian Martin, an Adjunct Associate Professor in Film and Screen Studies at Monash University, launched his book, Mise en Scène and Film Style: From Classical Hollywood to New Media Art, on February 26.

     

    Associate Prof Martin’s presentation,  Using Multimedia Like We Mean It: Audiovisual Demonstration in Film and Media Studies Today, was delivered before the Monash  academic community and invited guests at the Caulfield campus.

    Associate Professor Adrian Martin (from left), Dr Belinda Smaill and Associate Professor Therese Davis.
    Associate Professor Adrian Martin (from left), Dr Belinda Smaill and Associate Professor Therese Davis.

    The function also was a  farewell to Associate Prof Martin, who has worked with the Film and Screen Studies academic staff for some time.

    Associate Prof Martin is renowned internationally as a film critic, who has been a prolific writer for more than 35 years.

    Book launch of Associate Professor Adrian Martin at MADA.
    Book launch of Associate Professor Adrian Martin at MADA.

     

    CFP – New Directions in Screen Studies

    Call for Papers

    New Directions in Screen Studies: A National Conference for Postgraduates and Early Career Researchers in Screen Studies

    New Directions in Screen Studies is a two-day conference for postgraduates and early career researchers (ERCs) in Screen Studies. The conference is a forum for new researchers to showcase their work before their peers and develop professional links across campuses around the country and beyond.

    Where: Monash University, Caulfield Campus, Melbourne

    When: Thursday 18 – Friday 19 June 2015

    Deadline for Proposals: Monday 2 February 2015

    As well as papers from postgraduates and ERCs, the conference will feature four keynote presentations from established academics and screen practitioners:

    • Professor George Kouvaros, University of New South Wales. Books include Famous Faces Yet Not Themselves: The Misfits and Icons of Postwar America (Minnesota UP, 2010) and the forthcoming publication Awakening the Eye: Robert Frank’s American Cinema (Minnesota UP, 2015).
    • Professor Angela Ndalianis, Head of Screen and Cultural Studies, University of Melbourne. Books include The Horror Sensorium: Media and the Senses (2012), Science Fiction Experiences (2010) and Neo-Baroque Aesthetics and Contemporary Entertainment (2004).
    • Documentarian John Hughes, Honorary Fellow at the University of Melbourne. Films include Indonesia Calling: Joris Ivens in Australia and The Archive Project.
    • Dr Romaine Moreton, Research Fellow/Filmmaker in Residence, Monash University. Films include The Farm and The Oysterman.

    The organising committee is currently seeking proposals for papers. We are particularly interested in papers focused on topics in the areas below. However, this list is in no way prescriptive – we are primarily interested in showcasing new areas of research in Screen Studies, so we are very happy to consider proposals outside these areas.

    • Transnational frameworks in screen studies
    • Sites of spectatorship, including film festivals, non-traditional spaces and site-specific screen practices
    • Gender and gender identity
    • Contemporary understandings of film style, genre and/or narrative
    • Celebrity studies
    • Intermediality and cross-platform storytelling

    Presentations should be 20 minutes in length. We are also happy to receive proposals for panels of three presenters. A selection of presenters will be invited to develop their papers for articles to be published as part of a special dossier in Senses of Cinema.

    Proposals of no more than 300 words, clearly stating the paper’s title and the author’s name and affiliation, should be sent as a Word document attachment to: underconstructionconference@gmail.com

     

    CFP- Cinema at the End of the World

    International Conference
    16–19 November 2015

    Call for Papers

    Every day hundreds of people travel back and forth between southern countries,

    including Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, New Zealand, Indonesia, Timor Leste

    and South Africa; and with these people travel cultures, experiences, memories

    and images. The Cinema at the End of the World International Conference takes

    on a transversal South-South approach to the study of visual culture in transnational,

    transcultural and geopolitical contexts. It seeks to create conditions for the

    generation, sharing and circulation of new knowledge that is both southern and

    about the South as a specific kind of material and imaginary territory (or territories).

    It does so through the study of the southern hemisphere’s screen cultures,

    addressing the broad spectrum of cultural expression in both traditional and new

    screen media, including film, television, video, digital, interactive, and online and

    portable technologies.

    Proposals are invited for papers that explore intersections of screen works from

    countries south of the Equator and one or more of the following themes:

    Cross-Cultural Translations, Transformations and Mutations

    Settler Culture and Modernity

    Indigenous and Localised Media Practice and Theory

    Representations of Trauma and Violence

    Landscapes and Urbanisation

    Plenary speakers:

    Patricio Guzmán (TBC)

    Lúcia Nagib (University of Reading)

    Mariano Mestman (University of Buenos Aires)

    Fernão Ramos (University of Campinas, Brasil)

    Felicity Collins (La Trobe University)

    The Inaugural Conference of the

    South of the West: Southern Screens Research Network

    Presented in association with:

    School of Media, Film and Journalism, Monash University

    Monash Art Design and Architecture

    School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics, Monash University

    Screen Studies Association of Australia and

    Aotearoa/New Zealand Australian Centre for the Moving Image

    School of Media, Culture and Creative Arts, Curtin University.

    The Conference Conveners will accept proposals for papers until 28 February 2015.

    Abstracts of no more than 250-words and a 100-word biography should be sent to

    halina.bluzer@monash.edu.   with “CEW Abstract” included in the title

    A Special Issue of Critical Arts will be dedicated to articles that emerge from

    conference presentations.

    For more information contact:

    a.traverso@curtin.edu.au or

    deane. williams@ monash.edu.

    Monash University, Caulfield,

    Melbourne, Australia

    Download Flyer: CEW Call for Papers (1)

     

    Postgraduate Event – Under Construction Seminar Series

    2-4 pm in Room H805/06.Caulfield Campus. First Monday of every month during Semester

    Next Session: 2nd March 2015

    Under Construction is the School of Media, Film and Journalism seminar series run by postgraduates for postgraduates. Meeting on the first Monday of every month during semester, this series provides a great opportunity to interact with other postgrads and hear about all of the exciting work that is being done within the school.

    The idea is to share ideas in a laid-back setting in which we can get to know each other and each other’s work. If you’d like to test-run a conference paper, your confirmation presentation, a journal article, or just share some of the ideas from your research, then this is the place to do it.

    We are currently accepting proposals to be part of next year’s series. Presentations run for between 20 and 30 minutes and can be as formal or informal, detailed or general as you like. There will be two presenters per session and discussions are a big part of the gatherings.

    To get in touch with us, just send us an e-mail at seminar-underconstruction@monash.edu

    The Under Construction team is made up of Felicity Chaplin, Matteo Dutto, Dan Edwards, Belinda Glynn and Shweta Kishore.

     

    Mise en Scène and Film Style: From Classical Hollywood to New Media Art

    Mise en Scène and Film Style: From Classical Hollywood to New Media Art
    by Adrian Martin
    Synopsis:9781137269959 Styles of filmmaking have changed greatly from the classical Hollywood system, with its emphasis on narrative and character, to the current digital era of YouTube and installation art, where audiovisual spectacle takes command. The ways in which film critics and scholars have analysed these transformations in film style have also often changed. This book explores two central style concepts from the history of audiovisual criticism and theory, mise en scène and dispositif, to illuminate a wide range of film and new media examples. It argues that we need an open, inclusive and truly international approach to understand anew both old and current film and media works.

     

    Symposium – Digital Media as Method


    The Digital Media as Method symposium was convened by Deane Williams. Held November 13-14 2014, it featured leading international researchers/practitioners in a critical consideration of new methods in digital humanities.

    Keynotes

    “Dissolves of Passion”? Materially thinking through editing in digital videographic film and moving image studiesUntitled

    Dr Catherine Grant, University of Sussex

    Focusing on a number of videographic explorations of matters of film editing (including several of my own), my talk will ask what such practical, digital and audiovisual modes of research and presentation — ones which themselves evidently turn on editing — might add to the study of a cinematic feature that (with a number of key exceptions) has not received much sustained attention to date in written film scholarship.

    ‘Restless Media’

    Professor Ross Gibson, University of Canberra Ross

    In one of his last essays, the great historian Greg Dening captured his understanding of how he was always striving to activate the past that continues to push through the present in a myriad directions, from many different perspectives, serving variable interests. For the past is no gone thing. As an historian, Dening explained, you must work and wait for the past to reveal some of its vitality; and you must acknowledge that, as you minister to the past, you are committed to an ‘unclosed action’ and you must find communicative forms that serve this necessary openness.[1]

    Dening worked mostly with the book-form and in the realtime performance of lectures; but as it happens, his identified need for restless but rigorous postulation is especially well served by digital media. (Given time, he would have set high standards for the digital humanities.) Prompted by Dening, I want to ask to what extent have digital media changed our ways of accounting for the world; and in counterpoint, to what extent have the digital media turned up at precisely the time when the world has indicated the need for them?

    [1] Greg Dening, “Performing Cross-Culturally”, The Australasian Journal of American Studies, 2006, Vol. 25, No. 2, p.6.

     

    International Conference – Asian Cultural and Media Studies Now

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    The Asian Cultural & Media Studies Research Cluster of the Monash Asia Institute, Monash University hosted  an international conference, ‘Asian Cultural and Media Studies Now’ at Monash University, Caulfield campus in Melbourne on 6 and 7 November 2014.

    The conference aimed to critically revisit some of the key issues in the study of Asian culture, media and communications, which have been developed rapidly over the last twenty years, and discuss what kinds of new approaches and scholarly frameworks are required in the current socio-historical context. The conference focused  on four key areas of investigation, whose historical significance and transgressive potential requires reassessment in light of the advancement of market-driven processes of globalization and intensifying socio-economic disparity:
    1) Alternative modernities and de-Westernization
    2) Trans-Asian connections, dialogue and unevenness
    3) Cultural convergence, citizenship and socio-cultural diversity
    4) Mobility, imagined communities and cosmopolitanism

     

    Interdisciplinary Workshop – Digital Media as Method

    The Digital Media as Method workshop featured leading international researchers/practitioners Catherine Grant
    (University of Sussex), Ross Gibson (University of Canberra), and Adrian Martin (Monash University) in a critical
    consideration of new methods in digital humanities. All RUFCT members were participants in the workshop, which
    aimed to investigate and discuss the ways in which researchers in the disciplines of film, media and journalism
    studies are currently using digital media practices such as videography, digital archives and websites as research
    methods. The workshop was designed to facilitate cross fertilisation of ideas across our disciplinary boundaries and
    the conference dinner allowed further discussion of these possible future collaborations.

     

    Visiting Scholar – Thomas Elsaesser on Film Theory in the Digital Age

    Affect and Appropriation: Film Theory in the Digital Age

    October 13, 2014. Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Federation Square.

    Presented by The Research Unit in Film Culture and Theory, Monash University and the School of Culture and Communication, Faculty of Arts, University of Melbourne.

    Thomas Elsaesser is Professor of Film and Television Studies at the ThomasUniversity of Amsterdam and visiting Professor at Yale University. For more than forty years he has been a leading figure in the fields of Early Cinema, Quality Television, Digital Cinema, Harun Farocki, and New Hollywood Cinema. He is General Editor of the series Film Culture in Transition, published by Amsterdam University Press, and in 2008 received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society for Cinema and Media Studies.

    His books include New German Cinema: A History (1989, reprinted 1994), Weimar Cinema and After (2000), European Cinema: Face to Face with Hollywood (2005), The Persistence of Hollywood (2012) and German Cinema – Terror and Trauma: Cultural Memory since 1945 (2013). He has also edited and co-edited some twelve other volumes. His books have been translated into German. French, Italian, Czech, Hebrew, Hungarian, Korean, Chinese, Japanese and Lithuanian. He is also author of hundreds of articles in journals such as American Film, Cinema Journal, Cinetracts, Discourse, Film Comment, Framework, Hors Cadre, Iris, Kinoschriften, Medienwissenschaft, montage a/v,  New German Critique, October, Persistence of Vision, Positif, Screen, Sight and Sound, Trafic, Wide Angle as well as in several other foreign language journals.

     

    FSS

     

    International Screening and Q&A – New Directions in Indigenous filmmaking and performance

    “New Directions in Indigenous filmmaking and performance: screenings and Q and A”. Presented by Dr Romaine Moreton and Lou Bennett

    European Association for Studies of Australia (EASA) International Conference: Encountering Australia: Transcultural Conversations
    Wednesday 24 September 2014, Monash University Prato Centre, Italy.

    Romaine
    Dr Romaine Moreton

    In this session, keynote speaker Dr Romaine Moreton, Goernpil Bundjulung filmmaker and scholar, joins with Yorta Yorta Dja Dja Wurrung performer Lou Bennett to present a program of works that represent new artistic directions in Indigenous filmmaking and performance and raise crucial issues about Indigenous cultural heritage and revitalisation of language.

    Dr Moreton will screen her new short The Oysterman (2013). She will also show her “chapter” from Warwick Thornton’s new film The Darkside (2013) – an experimental anthology of Indigenous ghost stories.

     

    Lou
    Lou Bennett

    Lou Bennett,
    best known for her work as a former member of the internationally acclaimed trio Tiddas and Artistic Director for Black Arm Band, will speak to her roles in the hugely successful Australian musical film The Sapphires(2012), as a musical performer on the film’s soundtrack, cultural consultant and translator of the film’s key Yorta Yorta song “Ngarra Burra Ferra.” Lou will introduce excerpts from the film and speak to the historical and cultural importance of “Ngarra Burra Ferra” in the context of her PhD research on the relevance of Aboriginal language retrieval, reclamation and regeneration through the Arts to community health and well-being.

     

    Unfinished Business: Apology Cultures in the Asia Pacific Region

    Unfinished Business: Apology Cultures in the Asia Pacific Region. Prato, Italy. September 2014; convened by Sue
    Kossew, Therese Davis, Belinda Smaill and Olivia Khoo

     

    India in Flux: Living Resistance

     Shweta Kishore.
    Shweta Kishore.

    India In Flux: Living Resistance at Melbourne International Film Festival 2014 is the first public presentation of a curated Indian documentary film programme in Australia.

    Co-curator Shweta Kishore said the project was motivated by the desire to expand knowledge and appreciation of Indian screen cultures amongst Australian audiences.

    “The programme presents a stirring vision of social resistance and struggle, authored by filmmakers who work in multiple geographical and production settings,” Ms Kishore said.

    “The curation takes a historical approach to documentary cinema and includes imaginative expressions of cinematic language as well as new ways of relating to the traditional documentary subject, the ‘victim’ or subaltern.

    “Comprising of six feature length and one medium length documentary film, the curation is interested in works that devise original cinematic idioms to engage with their political concerns.”

    Ms Kishore said the programme extended to two filmmaker events, Currents of Dissent, a panel discussion with filmmakers Deepa Dhanraj and Anand Patwardhan, and film critic Meenakshi Shedde, about the structures and issues that are central to this cinema and its practitioners.

    “The second event, a Documentary Directing Master Class with Anand Patwardhan offers an intensive engagement with the conceptual approach and film techniques of one of the world’s foremost political filmmakers’,” she said.

    “As documentary cinema is in the midst of global churning and new players and agendas attach to the form, the capacity for this practice to maintain autonomy lies in plurality; dispersal of production sites and distributed modes of production and exhibition.

    “Indian documentary cinema in its pluralistic dispersed and improvised mode of operation represents a valuable model for the survival of independent cinematic vision.”

    Film titles: Children of the Pyre, Invoking Justice, Jai Bhim Comrade, John and Jane, My Name Is Salt, Quarter number 4/11, Tomorrow We Disappear, Vertical City

    The programme is curated by Shweta Kishore, PhD Candidate, School of Media, Film and Journalism and supported by Monash University.

     

    Popular Seriality

    Workshop---Constantine-Verevis_930

     

    In July 2014, Constantine Verevis convened a workshop on seriality with the Research Unit “Popular Seriality—Aesthetics and Practice,” at JFK Institute, Free University in Berlin.

     

    Remapping Indigenous Filmmaking: Beyond the Remote-Urban Divide

    On May 19, 2014 Dr Therese Davis and Dr Romaine Moreton presented findings from their recently completed Screen Australia Research and Publication Partnership Program project and launch the new Australian-Indigenous Film and Television Digital Bibliography

    Abstract:

    Colonialist classification systems of Indigenous identity have a long and contentious
    history in Australia. In recent years official use of race-based and blood-quotom systems
    have been replaced by the remote-urban divide, famously illustrated by Australian
    historian C.D. Rowley in The Remote Aborigines (1972) as a way of dividing ‘remote’
    Indigenous Australians from those who live on the ‘settled’ side of the ‘frontier’. The
    ‘Rowley Line’, as it is known, has been described as a geographic representation of the
    ‘frontier within the Australian psyche’ that continues to shape non-Indigenous Australia’s
    understanding of Indigenous Australia and perpetuate colonialist fantasises of Indigenous
    spatial and temporal distance from the modern world.

    This project analysed the impact of the remote-urban divide on the production and
    receptions of Indigenous screen content from government inquiries and media polices to
    funding determinations, film and television programming, marketing, press reviews and
    audience expectations. Their analysis of the complex network of Indigenous screen
    producers that crosses state and national boundaries and includes a broad range of
    filmmaking methods provides a dynamic countermap of Indigenous filmmaking and its
    place in the contemporary media landscape.

     

    Sinophone Cinemas

    Sinophone Cinemas
    Edited by Olivia Khoo and Audrey Yue

    Synopsis: 9781137311191Sinophone Cinemas considers a range of multilingual, multidialect and multi-accented cinemas produced in Chinese-language locations outside mainland China. Showcasing a variety of new and fascinating case studies from Britain, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Australia, and canvassing a range of formats including commercial co-productions, short films, documentaries and independent films, the book highlights the contemporary screen cultures of Chinese-language communities situated on the margins of China and Chineseness. It engages new sites of localisation, multilingualism, and difference that have emerged in Chinese film studies, ones that are not easily contained by the notion of diaspora. The chapters cover a number of historical periods, geographical locations, and critical and methodological perspectives, such as the political economy of Sinophone film production, distribution, consumption and regulation; cinematic practices of Chinese and non-Chinese language resistance, complicity and transformation; and Sinophone communities as sites of cultural production and visual economies.

     

    The Grierson Effect: Tracing Documentary’s International Movement

    The Grierson Effect: Tracing Documentary’s International Movement
    Edited by Deane Williams and Zoe Druick

    Synopsis: 9781844575398This landmark collection of essays considers the global legacy of John Grierson, the father of British documentary. Featuring the work of leading scholars from around the world, The Grierson Effectexplores the impact of Grierson’s ideas about documentary and educational film in a wide range of cultural and national contexts – from Russia and Scandinavia, to Latin America, South Africa and New Zealand.

    In reconsidering Grierson’s international infl uence, this major new study emphasises the material conditions of the production and circulation of documentary cinema, foregrounds core issues in documentary studies, and opens up expanded perspectives on transnational cinema cultures and histories.

     

    B Is for Bad Cinema

    B Is for Bad Cinema: Aesthetics, Politics and Cultural Value

    Edited by Constantine Verevis and Claire Perkins

    Synopsis: 62858_covB Is for Bad Cinema continues and extends, but does not limit itself to, the trends in film scholarship that have made cult and exploitation films and other “low” genres increasingly acceptable objects for critical analysis. Springing from discussions of taste and value in film, these original essays mark out the broad contours of “bad”—that is, aesthetically, morally, or commercially disreputable—cinema. While some of the essays share a kinship with recent discussions of B movies and cult films, they do not describe a single aesthetic category or represent a single methodology or critical agenda, but variously approach bad cinema in terms of aesthetics, politics, and cultural value. The volume covers a range of issues, from the aesthetic and industrial mechanics of low-budget production through the terrain of audience responses and cinematic affect, and on to the broader moral and ethical implications of the material. As a result, B Is for Bad Cinema takes an interest in a variety of film examples—overblown Hollywood blockbusters, faux pornographic works, and European art house films—to consider those that lurk on the boundaries of acceptability.

     

    Last Day Every Day: Figural Thinking from Kracauer and Auerbach to Brenez and Agamben

    Last Day Every Day: Figural Thinking from Kracauer and Auerbach to Brenez and Agamben

    by Adrian Martin

    Synopsis:Martin_Front-Cover-mock-216x349

    Where is film analysis at today? What is cinema theory up to, behind our backs? The field, as professionally defined (at least in the Anglo-American academic world), is presently divided between contextual historians who turn to broad formations of modernity, and stylistic connoisseurs who call for a return to old-fashioned things like authorial vision, tone, and mise en scène. But there are other, vital, inventive currents happening — in criticism, on the Internet, in small magazines, and renegade conferences everywhere — which we are not hearing much about in any official way. Last Day Every Dayshines a light on one of these exciting new avenues.

    Is there a way to bring together, in a refreshed manner, textual logic, hermeneutic interpretation, theoretical speculation, and socio-political history? A way to break the deadlock between classical approaches that sought organic coherence in film works, and poststructuralist approaches that exposed the heterogeneity of all texts and scattered the pieces to the four winds? A way to attend to the minute materiality of cinema, while grasping and contesting the histories imbricated in every image and sound?

    In “A Philosophical Interpretation of Freud,” Paul Ricoeur (drawing upon Hegel) remarks: “The appropriation of a meaning constituted prior to me presupposes the movement of a subject drawn ahead of itself by a succession of ‘figures,’ each of which finds its meaning in the ones which follow it.” The notion of the figural has recently become popular in European film theory and analysis, especially due to the work of Nicole Brenez — in which the figure stands for “the force . . . of everything that remains to be constituted” in a character, object, social relation or idea. Her use of the term refers back to magisterial work of German literary philologist Erich Auerbach (Mimesis), who decoded the religious interpretive system wherein all persons and events are grasped as significant only insofar as they prefigure their fulfilment on the ‘last day’ of divine judgment.

    Auerbach’s 1920s work on figuration in Dante was an important influence on his friend Walter Benjamin; and it was this ‘theological’ aspect of Benjamin’s thought that caught Kracauer’s attention, leading to the problematic of the redemption of worldly things. Last Day Every Day traces the notion of figural thinking from Weimar then to Paris (and beyond) today, taking in contemporary writings by William Routt and Giorgio Agamben, as well as two filmmakers also touched by such thinking and its cultural ambience: Josef von Sternberg (The Blue Angel) and Douglas Sirk (The Tarnished Angels).

    Figural analysis has a resonance for its practitioners today that goes far beyond its theological roots and undertones. It has become a way to trace and write cultural history, sensitive to the smallest but most powerful vibrations, exchanges, and metamorphoses within texts, whether filmic, literary, pictorial, aural, or theatrical. Modern cinema, in particular, often reverberates with the apocalyptic thunder of the last day (think Lars von Trier’s Melancholia or Abel Ferrara’s 4:44 Last Day on Earth) — while also opening us to the miracles and mysteries, the perplexities and potentialities, of every day.