Friday, November 20, 2009

History, Myth, and Mediation Framing the Fifties in Contemporary American Film | Christine Sprengler

MALAS is evolving

The First M.A.L.A.S. Billy Wilder Cultural Studies Lecture

History, Myth, and Mediation
Framing the Fifties in Contemporary American Film

Christine Sprengler
John Labatt Visual Arts Centre
University of Western Ontario

3:45 to 4:45pm, Monday November 23, 2009
Life Science Building, room 244, (LS-244)

Contemporary films about the 1950s have figured prominently in arguments against cinema’s value as a point of access to past eras and events. Inaugurated by Fredric Jameson, this type of criticism focuses on the ways in which a kind of depthless visual pastness (i.e., Fiftiesness) has managed to replace ‘real’ history (i.e. the ‘1950s’). Indeed, in many instances, Jameson and his followers were right to suggest that certain individual films did precisely this. However, as a
whole, the 300+ films released since 1970 that engage with the 1950s paint a richly layered and continually evolving portrait of a complex era once thought to have suffered inordinately from nostalgic obfuscation and mythic oversimplification. This presentation will argue against Jameson and suggest that by presenting different and often competing ‘faces’ of the 1950s, popular Hollywood film has helped to complicate our understanding of this era. And, in doing so, it has also made manifest a series of historiographical issues including the relationship of past and present, the role and nature of mediation, and the importance of myth in constructions of history.

Dr. Christine Sprengler is an Assistant Professor
of Art History in the Visual Arts Department
at the John Labatt Visual Arts Centre, University of
Western Ontario

"Bridging the transition between the studio system and the rise of independent producer-directors, and still active in the 'New Hollywood' era, Billy Wilder was a key player in the American cinema throughout the postwar period. A '30s screenwriter who became a contract director in the '40s, by 1950 Wilder had come to be regarded as a consummate studio auteur. Producing from the mid-1950s, he and his co-screenwriters were renowned in front office and fan magazine for making money, teasing audience sensibilities, and pleasing the critics. If the early-1960s saw a critical downturn, by the mid-1970s Wilder's reputation led to accolades and awards."{source} MALAS is thrilled to name its cinema/cultural studies lecture series after this master of moving pictures.

MALAS is the Master of Arts in Liberal Arts and Sciences Program at San Diego State University; it welcomes applications from undergraduates from the sciences or humanities who are looking for a flexible, first-rate interdisciplinary Masters Program. If you are voraciously curious and don't want to be limited to one field, MALAS is the graduate program for you! Apply here.

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