Theorizing Film Quotation: Re-Membering Classical Hollywood Film In Contemporary American Cinema

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Film and Media Studies
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This project theorizes a new term, “film quotation,” for the reuse of classical Hollywood film fragments within mainstream post-classical American cinema, arguing that film quotation is a constitutive element of post-classical authorship. Film quotation links the unprecedented availability of film history—in archives, on television, in early film studies programs—in the 1950s and 60s with the affective and aesthetic influence of the bygone classical era on post-classical filmmakers. This project ties scholarship on avant-garde traditions—like found-footage films, films composed of archival footage, and videographic criticism, video essays hosted online—to their mainstream manifestations. I maintain that the historiographic and aesthetic work of Jean-Luc Godard’s 8-part video project Histoire(s) du cinema (1988-1998), in which he re-edits a dizzying array of film clips to form his own story/history of cinema, is no more or less important an archival intervention than the film quotations amassed by Spike Lee’s Bamboozled (2000). Each chapter reframes a post-classical American auteur in relation to archive and Hollywood history through quotation. From Spike Lee’s archival interventions against racist legacies of minstrelsy and blackface to Woody Allen’s escapist fantasies that ultimately fail to escape authorial scandal, film quotation reveals post-classical authorship’s crucial links to the classical archive. The project argues that film quotation provides a pre-history to both contemporary remix culture and videographic criticism. Film quotation is an under-analyzed predecessor to digital appropriation, meme culture, mash-ups, remixes, gifs culled from film and media, and fan vids.

Timothy Corrigan
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