Pratt Cinematic Thinking Workshop: Thinking through Genre

Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York 2nd-3rd November 2013

The Pratt Cinematic Thinking Workshop was dedicated to the continued conversation between philosophy, film and theory and devoted to examining the relationship between cinema’s long-term interest in genre and philosophy’s even longer-term interest in form, ontology, and the analysis of concepts. Genre has played a significant role in the history of cinema from the start, allowing the new medium to establish continuities with already entrenched aesthetic forms and to intersect in compelling ways with modes like tragedy, comedy, melodrama and the epic. Genre was a means of facilitating the adaptation of these modes to the cinematic medium before becoming an instrument for directors and producers to identify and market films. In the 1970s film semiotics undertook important work on the relationship between genre and myth, seeking to make sense of the function of genre in the maintenance of normative conceptions of cultural value. Film theorists have long been interested in delimiting the signifying systems of individual genres, theorizing their responsiveness to the vagaries of history, tracking their evolution and understanding the importance of genre for the political economy of the industry.

Film genres involve audiences in performative modes of thinking by establishing codes and conventions and creating systems of expectations that can either be satisfied or thwarted. These systems are open to the extent that they are continuously subject to revision and transformation. At the same time membership in a genre is not exclusive and asks only for participation without requiring belonging. Genres undoubtedly provide scope for creative interventions by directors and their collaborators, but it is also arguable that genre participation, along with montage and style, establishes a vital means of cinematic thinking that can be provocative and dialogical.

Workshop Program

Download the full program with abstracts

Presentations at the workshop included:

  • Kathleen Kelley¬† ‘Melodramatic Demands: Cavell and Genre’
  • Eva Sancho Rodriguez ‘The Merit of Genre versus Cinematic Tone and Mood: Does Analysis Through Genre Open Up ‘Better’ Kinds of Questions?’
  • Josh Karant ‘Hip Hop Cinema: The Appropriation of Genre as Genre’
  • Zed Adams ‘On Location’
  • Suzanne Verderber ‘Genre, Repetition, and Difference in Detective Fiction’
  • Gregory Flaxman ‘The Late Western’
  • Agustin Zarzosa ‘Melodrama and the senses of modality’
  • Lisabeth During ‘A Romance from Hell: Unconscious Rape, Sexual Difference, and Film Genre’
  • Mathew Abbott ‘The Comedy of Remarriage in an Age of Technical Reproducibility: Notes on Kiarostami’s Certified Copy
  • Lisa Trahair ‘Cavell, Comedy and The Ladies Man
  • Robert Sinnerbrink ‘The Moral Melodrama’

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