Film Studies Conference: Sergei Eisenstein’s Unpublished “Notes for a General History of Cinema"

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School of the Arts

September 30 – October 1, 2010
Film Studies Conference: Sergei Eisenstein's Unpublished "Notes for a General History of Cinema"
Columbia University

A conference staging the critical reception by scholars in the field. The "Notes for a General History of Cinema," written by Eisenstein in 1947-48 while he was organizing a section of Film Theory and History at the Institute of Art of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, present us with a map of all topics Eisenstein would have liked to discuss, in a volume dedicated to the history and pre-history of cinema – a volume he planned but never wrote, due to his death in 1948. What is surprising in these notes – structured like a long index – is the quantity and variety of extra- and pre-cinematographic references (literature, music, architecture, photography, painting, theater, puppet theater, but also Western and non-Western popular feasts and traditions, religious rites and processions, moving from 'high' art to popular forms of entertainment such as wax museums, circuses, etc.): a compound of some of the references Eisenstein had already discussed in his previous published and unpublished texts ("Montage" of 1937, "Nonindifferent Nature" of 1945-47, "Method" of 1932-48), with a new, strong emphasis on pre-cinematographic media (Panorama, Diorama, stereoscopic photography, cronophotography, aerial photography, travelogues) as well as on the relationships with the avant-gardes (photomontages of Berlin dadaists, photograms of Man Ray and Moholy-Nagy, et al.). Read within the context of the rest of his theoretical oeuvre, these "Notes" offer further insight into Eisenstein's ideas on the relationships between cinema and the other arts/media, his anthropologically rooted aesthetics, and his use of montage as a hermeneutic and historiographic tool. The bulk of the unpublished manuscript comes from RGALI, the State Archive, but there are some sheets added from the Eisenstein Kabinett.

Sponsored by Columbia University Seminar on Cinema & Interdisciplinary Interpretation; The Harriman Institute - Russian, Eurasian and Eastern European Studies; Columbia University School of the Arts Film Program; Permanent Seminar on History of Film Theories, Museo del cinema di Torino

Coordinators: Professor Jane Gaines (Columbia University School of the Arts), Professor Francesco Casetti (Yale University); organizers: Assistant Professor Nico Baumbauch (Columbia University School of the Arts), Luka Arsenjuk (Jr. Fellow, International Research Center/ Cultural Studies, Vienna)


Thursday, September 30: SEMINAR

7:30–9:30 pm
Columbia University: Faculty House (64 Morningside Drive, New York)

Speaker: Antonio Somaini (Professor, University of Genoa)
"The Possibilities of Cinema: History as montage in Eisenstein's 'Notes for a General History of Cinema'"
Respondent: John Mackay (Professor of Slavic Literature and Language, Yale University)

Friday, October 1: CONFERENCE

9:00 am – 6:30 pm
Columbia University: 501 Schermerhorn Hall, (1190 Amsterdam Ave., New York)

9:00–10:20 am  
Panel: “Eisenstein and the Comic”
Hannah Frank
(Graduate student in Cinema Studies, University of Chicago)
"'A New Kind of Weapon': Eisenstein's Drawings as a Theory of the Comic"
Ada Ackerman
(Graduate student in Art History, Paris-Ouest-Nanterre-La Défense and Université de Montréal)
"Why Daumier's art seemed so 'cinematic' to Eisenstein"
Luka Arsenjuk
(Graduate student in Literature, Duke University)
"Eisenstein's Comic Dynamism"

10:2010:45 am
Coffee Break

10:45 am – 12:00 pm
Yuri Tsivian
(Professor of Art History, University of Chicago)
“Chaplin and the Russian Avant-Garde: The Law of Fortuity in Art”

12:15–1:45 pm
Lunch Break

2:003:00 pm
Masha Salazkina
(Associate Professor of Cinema, Concordia University)
"Eisenstein's General History of Cinema: General Historical Context"

3:00–4:00 pm
Mikhail Iampolski
(Professor of Comparative Literature and Russian and Slavic Studies, NYU)
“Point, Pathos and Totality”

4:00–4:20 pm
Coffee Break

4:206:00 pm
Roundtable Discussion

Moderator: Philip Rosen (Professor of Modern Culture and Media, Brown University)
Participants: Antonio Somaini, Yuri Tsivian, Masha Salazkina, Mikhail Iampolski, John Mackay

6:006:45 pm

6:45 pm
Film Screening:
"News From Ideological Antiquity: Marx – Eisenstein – Capital" (Directed by Alexander Kluge, 2008, 84 min.)

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Columbia University School of the Arts offers MFA degrees in Film, Theatre, Visual Arts, and Writing, an MA degree in Film Studies, a joint JD/MFA degree in Theatre Management & Producing, a PhD degree in Theatre History, Literature, and Theory, and an interdisciplinary program in Sound Arts.