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Cinematicity in Media History

Cinematicity in Media History

Jeffrey Geiger
Karin Littau
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Cinematicity in Media History
    Book Description:

    In a world where change has become the only constant, how does the perpetually new relate to the old? How does cinema, itself once a new medium, relate both to previous or outmoded media and to what we now refer to as New Media? This collection sets out to examine these questions by focusing on the relations of cinema to other media, cultural productions and diverse forms of entertainment, demarcating their sometimes parallel and sometimes more closely conjoined histories. It makes visible the complex ways in which media anticipate, interfere with and draw on one other, demonstrating how cinematicity makes itself felt in practices of seeing, reading, writing and thinking both before and after the ‘birth’ of cinema. Examining the interrelations between cinema, literature, photography and other modes of representation not only to each other, but amid a host of other minor and major media - the magic lantern, the zoetrope, the flick-book, the iPhone and the computer - Cinematicity in Media History provides crucial insights into the development of media and their overlapping technologies and aesthetics.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-7612-5
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. v-vii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Notes on the Contributors
    (pp. ix-xii)
  6. Introduction: Cinematicity and Comparative Media
    (pp. 1-18)

    Rapid changes in modern telecommunications technologies have heightened our awareness of the mediascape that we inhabit, prompting us to reflect more generally not merely on the fact, but on the usually hidden history, of media change. In a world where change has become the only constant, how does the perpetually new relate to the old? How does cinema, itself once a new medium, relate to what we now refer to as the New Media, or conversely, how did cinema as an emergent medium relate to its predecessors and contemporaries – eclipsing, challenging and transforming them in its wake? This collection sets...

  7. Part 1 Cinematicity before Cinema

    • CHAPTER 1 Dickensian ‘Dissolving Views’: The Magic Lantern, Visual Story-telling and the Victorian Technological Imagination
      (pp. 21-34)

      In the palmy years of the magic lantern, in England, from the 1860s to the 1890s, when perhaps twelve hundred lantern lecturers criss-crossed the country by railway and lantern companies splurged on studios, supplies and slide catalogues that were the size of bricks, lanternists cherished two dreams.¹

      The first (the focus of technical histories) was to make still images move–by all means possible: illusion and speed lines; panoramic ‘sliders’ that pushed across the beam of light; ‘slipping’ glasses; levers; ratchets and ‘eccentrics’; and pulleys. Sometimes all of these methods were used at once. The second dream (a history that...

    • CHAPTER 2 ‘Never Has One Seen Reality Enveloped in Such a Phantasmagoria’: Watching Spectacular Transformations, 1860–89
      (pp. 35-45)

      In cinema’s first decade,féeriessuch asA Trip to the Moon(Méliès, 1902) andThe Kingdom of the Fairies(Méliès, 1903) were among the most popular films in the world.¹ With fantastic subject matter, elaborate spectacles, relatively lengthy running times, the use of colour and prominent trick effects, such films offered many different attractions. These films borrowed heavily from the narratives and spectacles of their stage antecedent, the theatricalféerie.² Roughly translatable as a ‘fairy play’, this type of theatrical show ran alongside melodramas and vaudevilles in the popular stages of nineteenth-century France, particularly in Paris.³ As well as...

    • CHAPTER 3 Moving-picture Media and Modernity: Taking Intermediate and Ephemeral Forms Seriously
      (pp. 46-64)

      In 1994, I was working on a television series and book,The Last Machine, subtitled ‘early cinema and the birth of the modern world’, which tried among other things to locate moving pictures in a wider cultural and technological field than was normal at the time.² But in wanting to rescue this history from a merely technicist or ‘pioneer’ account, based on inventions and scientific principles, there was a danger of going too far in the opposite direction, paying excessive attention to ancestry and context. To say, as others did at this time of celebrating the centenary of cinema, that...

  8. Part 2 Transitions:: Early Cinema and Cinematicity

    • CHAPTER 4 Reading in the Age of Edison: The Cinematicity of ‘The Yellow Wall-Paper’
      (pp. 67-87)

      Arguably, there have been three ‘revolutions’ that altered how the written word was consumed. Historians of the book have demonstrated how transitions from scroll to codex, codex to print, and print to hypertext, have transformed reading in the West. Little, however, has been said about another media ‘revolution’ that is just as significant for the history of reading, and that occurred when animated and projected images first began to rival the print medium. The focus of this chapter will be on the media-transitional period of the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth to ask what difference the cinematograph and...

    • CHAPTER 5 Time and Motion Studies: Joycean Cinematicity in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
      (pp. 88-106)

      The Irish writer James Joyce (1882–1941), widely regarded as the most ‘cinematic’ among modernist writers, came to be deemed ahead of the game even by filmmakers, such as Sergei M. Eisenstein, who advocated in the 1930s thatUlysses(1922) be treated as a creative template for the progress of cinema itself.¹ However, as historicization of the symbiosis between Dickens’s fiction and moving magic lantern techniques confirms, increasing reciprocity between ‘visual literacy’ and ‘literary visuality’ in the nineteenth century helps explain Joyce’s extraordinary creative receptiveness to cinema when it finally arrived. Like his ‘low-modern’ elder, H. G. Wells, Joyce was...

    • CHAPTER 6 Nature Caught in the Act: On the Transformation of an Idea of Art in Early Cinema
      (pp. 107-116)

      In a well-known anecdote, Georges Méliès, an audience member at the first screening of projected film in the Grand Café in Paris, 1895, is said to have encountered the potential of cinema and his own destiny as a filmmaker in the detail of moving leaves in the background of the Lumières’ filmLe Repas de Bébé(Baby’s Meal).¹ In 1944, in what was to be his final interview, delivered from a hospital bed, D. W. Griffith claimed, ‘What the modern movie lacks is beauty – the beauty of the moving wind in the trees.’²

      What do Méliès, the figure most associated...

  9. Part 3 Cinematicity in the ‘Classic’ Cinema Age

    • CHAPTER 7 Cinematicity of Speech and Visibility of Literature: The Poetics of Soviet Film Scripts of the Early Sound Film Era
      (pp. 119-132)

      This chapter focuses on the relationship between literature and film in the Soviet film culture of the 1930s.¹ What directors like Sergei Eisenstein, Vsevolod Pudovkin and Grigori Aleksandrov² feared most in this new era of sound film was that the spoken word, once admitted, would change cinema forever. Film would never again be a ‘pure’ medium. Soviet cinematic dramaturgy and its attendant discourses brought these debates into sharp focus. Well-known scriptwriters such as Mikhail Bleiman proclaimed the film script as an artwork in its own right, and claimed for it the status of a new genre, fourth in line with...

    • CHAPTER 8 Making America Global: Cinematicity and the Aerial View
      (pp. 133-156)

      In 1936, in the pages ofNational Geographic, readers could witness a view over Earth like none other seen before. A pull-out supplement revealed a ‘global panorama’ of the Black Hills of North Dakota, shot from the manned balloon Explorer I at an elevation of 72,395 feet, near ‘the division between the troposphere and the stratosphere’. The image revealed ‘the actual curvature of the earth – photographed from the highest point ever reached by man’.¹

      Even as such spectacular documentary images were challenging how people related to the world, motion pictures were altering modern perception itself. As outlined in this book’s...

    • CHAPTER 9 Invisible Cities, Visible Cinema: Illuminating Shadows in Late Film Noir
      (pp. 157-170)

      The visible, as Maurice Merleau-Ponty has taught us, always involves the invisible; what we see entails a zone of the not-seen.¹ Seventies film theory too frequently thought of cinema as exemplifying the glare (or frenzy) of the visible, devoted to the lure of visual mastery. This led to a simplification of cinema’s ideological role as propping up the viewer’s investment in a visual image as the product of a gaze. However, such analysis too often celebrated the insight of the analyst over the complicity of the medium, rather than offering a detailed exploration of cinema’s complex stylistic interaction within modern...

  10. Part 4 Digital Cinematicity

    • CHAPTER 10 Cinema, Video, Game: Astonishing Aesthetics and the Cinematic ‘Future’ of Computer Graphics’ Past
      (pp. 173-195)

      In an early publication on the possibilities of computer graphics, Robert Goldstein and Roger Nagel described a ‘visual simulation technique by which fully computer-generated perspective views of three-dimensional objects may be produced’.¹ Published in 1971 to articulate several years of research at MAGI (Mathematical Applications Group Inc. – the company that went on to form the backbone of Disney’s 1982 movieTron), this paper reveals a number of interesting ways in which the future possibilities of computer-generated imagery (CGI) were envisaged. Describing their new process of ‘raytracing’ (a process still used today in Pixar’sRendermansoftware) and its distinguishing difference from...

    • CHAPTER 11 Miniature Pleasures: On Watching Films on an iPhone
      (pp. 196-210)

      If one of the distinctive characteristics of the cinematic experience in the age of ‘remediation’ and ‘media convergence’ is the collective viewing of a film shown on a large screen, then the smartphone, as the smallest portable and personal screening device, represents its very antinomy. With its diminutive screen and set of earphones, the smartphone as screening device encourages the kind of individual and intimate viewing that appears, on the one hand, typical of spectatorial habits in the age of the digital and, on the other, more evocative of the kinetoscope’s peephole apparatus than of the film theatre.

      As what...

    • CHAPTER 12 Kino-Eye in Reverse: Visualizing Cinema
      (pp. 211-234)

      In his text ‘WE: Variant of a Manifesto’ (1922), a young Dziga Vertov calls for the development of a graphical language to describe what he sees as the key element of his future film language–movement: ‘To represent a dynamic study on a sheet of paper, we need graphic symbols of movement.’¹ Vertov’s desire for such a graphic language anticipates the recent work of a number of data visualization designers and artists to use computational analysis and computer graphics to visualize patterns in artistic works, including literary texts and films.² Inspired by this work, in 2007 I started a research...

  11. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 235-239)
  12. Index
    (pp. 240-244)