Change Mummified: Cinema, Historicity, Theory

Change Mummified: Cinema, Historicity, Theory

Change Mummified: Cinema, Historicity, Theory

Change Mummified: Cinema, Historicity, Theory

Synopsis

Exploring the modern category of history in relation to film theory, film textuality, and film history, Change Mummified makes a persuasive argument for the centrality of historicity to film as well as the special importance of film in historical culture. What do we make of the concern for recovering the past that is consistently manifested in so many influential modes of cinema, from Hollywood to documentary and postcolonial film? How is film related to the many modern practices that define themselves as configuring pastness in the present, such as architectural preservation, theme parks, and, above all, professional historical research? What is the relation of history in film to other media such as television and digital imaging? How does emphasizing the connection between film and modern historicity affect the theorization and historicization of film and modern media culture?

Pursuing the full implications of film as cultural production, Philip Rosen reconceptualizes modern historicity as a combination,of characteristic epistemological structures on the one hand, and the social imperative to regulate or manage time on the other. Emphasizing a fundamental constellation of pursuit of the real, indexical signification and the need to control time, he interrogates a spectrum of film theory and film texts. His argument refocuses the category of temporality for film and cultural theory while rethinking the importance of historicity.

An original and sustained meditation on the historiographic status of cinematic signs, Change Mummified is both an intervention in film and media studies and an argument for the continuing necessity of modern historical thinking in its contradictions.

Excerpt

This book addresses film theory, filmic textuality, and film history in relation to the modern category of history, or rather, modern historicity. in my view, there are significant interrelations, connections, and overlaps between cinema as we usually know it and modern historicity as we usually know it. It seems to me that ideas about those relations have not been pushed conceptually or categorically as far as they could be. By pushing harder, I hope to say some interesting things about cinema and its theory, a little about its history, and something about historicity. Thus, the phrase in the title of this book, “change mummified,” is a translator’s rendering of a figurative definition of cinema offered by André Bazin. But, I will argue, it also registers modern historicity. For it rests on a notion of temporality as a threateningly dynamic force, a threat registered especially in the high valuation placed on stabilizing relations between present and past; and these are assumptions definitive of modern historicity.

For the sake of terminological clarity, I make a distinction between historiography, history, and historicity. By historiography, I mean the text written by the historian (historio-graphy). By history, I mean the object of the text, the “real” pastness it seeks to construct or recount in and for the present. This entails the definitional proposition that historiography always has referential ambitions. By historicity, I mean the particular interrelations of the mode of historiography and the types of construction of history related by it.

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