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

3.4 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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.

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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
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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 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #950,591 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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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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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Format: Paperback
This collection remains relevant and likely will for some time. It is diverse and contains new essays by thoughtful, engaged scholars. Bordwell's particular critique of what he calls Grand Theory remains unconvincing to me, but his argument for a kind of middle theory is appealing. Academic departments (often unknowingly) promote a kind of formula for criticism in which the big idea comes first, and individual works serve as illustrations for that big idea. Bordwell advocates starting with the works themselves and working from there. It's an admirable wish, one that he himself cannot follow, as his other texts show. (One can't leave one's ideology at the door, especially if one cannot recognize it.) Don't bother reading this book if you can't tell the difference between Porter and Griffith or between Freud and Lacan. Don't order it if you cannot define poststructuralist theory--the essays' critique of it will only confuse you. And this book is definitely not for readers who dislike the rigor of literary and film theory more generally: it will not give them the ammo they seek. Instead, it is for those readers who want a provocative, well-rounded collection of essays that extend their focus beyond mere reviews.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Some of the essays are dull and dense, as some scholarly essays can be, but they throw many of the conventional wisdoms of film music studies into a new light and question our assumptions.
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Format: Paperback
If you want to understand something about movies, read the classic texts on which some of the great directors formed themselves: Ejzenstein, Pudovkin, Bazin, Arnheim and stick to them. In this book which I couldn't read but for a third, you find essays on many aspects of film viewing and making which, in the best of cases, any film fan already grabs intuitively, without so much wordage being spent on them; others that are just an endless exercise in rehashing liminar theories set forth by other obscure "students" for the twenty people who care to read them; others try to reach conclusions on themes which are just waiting for some other academic theorist to reformulate them and that, being generally based on psychoanalisis, are generally undemonstrable.
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