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Post-Theory: Reconstructing Film Studies (Wisconsin Studies in Film) Paperback – February 1, 1996

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Product Details

  • Series: Wisconsin Studies in Film
  • Paperback: 582 pages
  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press; 1 edition (February 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0299149447
  • ISBN-13: 978-0299149444
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #601,810 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Dissatisfied with the vast body of film criticism bound to the theories of Sigmund Freud and his disciple Jacques Lacan, David Bordwell and Noel Carroll have compiled a group of essays that pursue alternative routes. "If there is an organizing principle to the volume," they write in their introduction, "it is that solid film scholarship can proceed without employing the psychoanalytic frameworks routinely mandated by the cinema studies establishment." These essays tackle films of many genres and from many countries. Looking through the lenses of the anthropologist, the economist, the social critic, the formalist, the aesthetician, the narratologist, and the cultural historian, the essayists in this volume offer original, diverse, and erudite perspectives on the art of the movies.


Post-Theory is absolutely timely as a call to reform the field of film studies. Bordwell and Carroll—two of the most prominent names in the field—advocate pluralism, open mindedness, film theories over film Theory, and the need for an ongoing critical dialogue.  There is no other book like it.”—Andrew Horton, author of Writing the Character-Centered Screenplay

More About the Author

David Bordwell is Jacques Ledoux Professor Emeritus of Film Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He holds a master's degree and a doctorate in film from the University of Iowa. His books include The Films of Carl Theodor Dreyer (University of California Press, 1981), Narration in the Fiction Film (University of Wisconsin Press, 1985), Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema (Princeton University Press, 1988), Making Meaning: Inference and Rhetoric in the Interpretation of Cinema (Harvard University Press, 1989), The Cinema of Eisenstein (Harvard University Press, 1993), On the History of Film Style (Harvard University Press, 1997), Planet Hong Kong: Popular Cinema and the Art of Entertainment (Harvard University Press, 2000), Figures Traced in Light: On Cinematic Staging (University of California Press, 2005), The Way Hollywood Tells It: Story and Style in Modern Movies (University of California Press, 2006), and The Poetics of Cinema (Routledge, 2008). He has won a University Distinguished Teaching Award and was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Copenhagen. His web site is

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By JCW on November 26, 2004
Format: Paperback
The one-star review of this book from "a common reader" warns that this book will "muddle your thoughts." That reviewer's thoughts are certainly muddled, though it probably isn't this book's fault. If you can only read a third of a book, you might not want to review it. Contrary to this review, the authors represented in this collection do not make observations that "any film fan" could intuit, but rather mobilize complex historical, institutional, and theoretical concepts that require long and careful study that go beyond the intuition of a casual film fan. Moreover, this book is of interest to more than "20 people," and was extremely controversial among the large international body of film and media scholars whose discipline this book critiques. Just because the "common reader" might not be interested in advanced theoretical studies of film doesn't mean nobody else could possibly be interested - other people who committ their lives to the study of the moving image found, and continue to find, this a very important and ground-breaking book. Yes, some of the essays are rather weak - like any collection of essays, Post Theory has its ups and downs, but its open challenge to the dotrines of film and media studies as it is practiced by thousands of scholars and hundreds of thousands of students all over the world is a very important gesture for film studies. Bordwell's and Carroll's two introductions are especially good, summarizing the field's theoretical and methological preoccupations very well and asking very disruptive and thought-provoking questions about them.

Yes, if you are a film fan looking for a good introduction to the study of film, this is not the book for you.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Steward Willons TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 11, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There is a fair amount of confusion surrounding this book, thanks in part to Slavoj Zizek's irresponsibly shallow summary of Bordwell and Carroll's motivation and purpose for this collection. Zizek's "the Fright of Real Tears" has some redeeming qualities, but it begins as an all-out attack on Bordwell's idea of Post-Theory without actually bothering to understand just WHAT Bordwell means by "Post-Theory". Zizek assumes that Bordwell is yet another anti-Lacanian empiricist who can't tell his structuralism from his deconstruction from his Lacanian psychoanalysis from his modernism etc. etc.

This is completely unfounded. Anyone who reads the introduction will understand that Bordwell doesn't wish to thrash these theories, but rather wants to propose alternatives. I'm sure most would agree that Lacan isn't the only path to successful film criticism. Of course he was influential and will continue to be, but Bordwell would like to see new modes of discourse rise to, as the title states, "reconstruct film studies".

This book is definitely not Anti-Theory. It is arguing for an alternative to what Bordwell calls "Grand theory" (i.e. structuralism, post-structuralism, postmodernism, psychoanalysis, feminism). Again, he is not saying to forget these important theories, but to consider other options. In this way, the book is extremely valuable. Whether Bordwell finds new and useful paths to film criticism is up to you. I think some of the essays here present cogent arguments. Regardless, it's always worthwhile when someone challenges the status quo with such skill and academic rigor.

Now, I like Zizek as much as anyone, but we all know he can be hasty and oversimplify major issues (his book on Deleuze is a great example).
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By J. Juliano on November 22, 2006
Format: Paperback
This collection of essays, organized by David Bordwell and Noel Carroll, puts forth an argument against the long-standing Grand Theory often invoked by film scholars. Bordwell, Carroll, and their contributors all take different approaches to writing about film in order to demonstrate that there is no need to invoke "the Theory" (a synthesis of post-structuralism, Marxism, semiotics, and Lacanian psychoanalysis) when theorizing about films. Insisting on logical argument and evidence (both textual and reception-based), the essays in this collection are a great rebuke to the throttling of creativity and new ideas wrought by the hegemony of Theory in film studies. A great read for anyone in film, literature, or cultural studies who wants a different take on theoretical pursuits than those proposed by the old school followers of Althusser, Barthes, Metz, et al. Not every essay is fantastic, of course. But if you're interested in rationalism and logic and tired of the assumptions and lack of proof in Theory, you're likely to find at least one piece here that argues for your perspective.
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