Making Political Meaning: Academic Criticism of Contemporary German Film
This essay examines the standards by which academic critics judge the political meanings of contemporary German cinema. Germanists specializing in film studies favor a textual approach and use the New German Cinema’s politically invested aesthetic experimentation as a measuring stick for the politics of new films. An alternative approach to the politics of contemporary film may be found in the social-historical, audience-focused methods favored by historians of early cinema. This approach can help shift film criticism in German Studies away from well-established traditions that are fundamentally literary in their perspective, yield new insights into the politics of film reception, and open up space for fruitful new interpretive avenues when it comes to analyzing cinematic images themselves.
Curtis Swope teaches in the Department of Modern languages at Trinity University in San Antonio. His research focuses on representations of architecture, cities and domestic space in twentieth century German literature and film with a focus on left-wing theater and novels. He is currently working on a book project entitled “Building Socialism: The Culture of Architecture in the GDR.”
Reframing Persona and Adaptation
This paper sets itself two agendas: the first, which falls within the framework of traditional intertextual adaptation studies, is to illuminate Persona by arguing that, despite the opinions of previous critics, the question of which version of Electra Elisabet Vogler was playing in when she fell silent may aid a reading of the film’s thematic doublings and Elisabet’s own psychology; the second is to comparePersona with works to which it makes no allusion, Stefan Zweig’s Chess Novella and Carson McCullers’ Ballad of the Sad Café, as part of an argument in favor of the simultaneously heuristic and surrealistic value of such comparisons, thus advocating for a new form of adaptation studies.
Paul Coates teaches in the Film Studies Department of the University of Western Ontario. He has taught at McGill University and at the Universities of Georgia (Athens) and Aberdeen. His books include The Story of the Lost Reflection (1985),The Gorgon’s Gaze (1991), Lucid Dreams: The Cinema of Krzysztof Kieslowski (ed.) (1999), Cinema, Religion and the Romantic Legacy(2003), The Red and the White: The Cinema of People’s Poland (2005), and Cinema and Colour: The Saturated Image (2010). HisScreening the Face, which includes a chapter on Persona, has just been published by Palgrave Macmillan.