Monday 24 August 2009

The Value of Style: Film Criticism in Scholarship

"The first impulse of any good film critic, and to this I think you would agree, must be of love. To be moved enough to want to share their affection for a particular work or to relate their experience so that others may be curious. This is why criticism, teaching, and curating or programming, in an ideal sense, must all go hand in hand."
"The Letter I would Love To Read To You In Person" by Alexis Tioseco [to Nika Bohinc], July 15, 2008, pt 1, pt 2, pt 3

Image from The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)

Today, Film Studies For Free is very merrily celebrating its first birthday. It is marking this auspicious date -- in style and on style -- by posting one of its longest links lists yet: to online and openly accessible articles and essays on the subject of film criticism (scholarly and otherwise) that FSFF's author has found important and/or stimulating over the last years.

FSFF would like its list to be even longer, though, so do please take note of the four headings below (on film style: on film criticism; on film critics; and important, self-reflexive, examples of film criticism online) and do let the blog know of links to other relevant work (especially to good examples of online film criticism), preferably in the comments section, please.

This post was inspired, in great part, some weeks back by the peerless Girish Shambu who launched a characteristically thoughtful and important discussion, in a blog entry entitled "Building A Large Conversation", about the divide that exists between the fields of film scholarship and film criticism. Girish wrote:

Except for a small number of invaluable critic-scholars who work to bridge the gap, the two groups similarly shy away from citing each other. Why is this so? For critics, it would require the significant effort of familiarizing themselves with scholarly literature past and present, an effort made more difficult by the presence of a specialized scholarly vocabulary. For scholars, whose jobs already require them to do vast amounts of reading, this would mean widening their field of vision to include writing in film magazines, the Internet (including blogs), and newspapers. Added to this are the demands in both professions of watching scores of films on a steady basis.

Like Girish, the many important commenters to his blog post, and other thoughtful respondents to it, such as HarryTuttle, FSFF readily acknowledges the difficulties in bridging these gaps.

In his response to Girish's post, film scholar and blogger Chris Cagle wrote eloquently and concisely about those difficulties, but in an optimistic frame, he noted that what might be needed is

a model that's different than pure specialization or pure dilettantism. For lack of a better name, I'd call it randomization. Each scholar specializes but looks to new ideas, methodologies, and inspiration in a limited fashion with the hope that collectively we mitigate the downside of stale intellectual mindsets. The journalist, blogger, or public intellectual could have a role in this.

Film Studies For Free owes its very existence to the desire to help to 'join up' scholars and critics in the global online arena. And it very much seconds Cagle's assertions about what is required to achieve this. Today, then, it reaffirms its own mission by helping to encourage a richer and more connected 'scholar-critic conversation' through the below list of 'randomly collected' but also 'specialized' links.

On a final note, FSFF has received lots of encouragement in its first year of existence, but none warmer, more timely or more generous than that given in its early days by Girish, whose own website continues to be a huge inspiration in all sorts of ways. Thanks a million to him, and to all of you who have welcomed and supported this blog. Onwards!

On film style:

On film criticism:

On film critics:

Important, self-reflexive, examples of film criticism online:

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The Film Doctor said...

An impressive links list. Happy birthday Film Studies for Free!

HarryTuttle said...

Great post. Thanks for the links.

I would add, if you find them stimulating too:
- Bordwell, "Against Insight", cinemascope #26
- "How critics work" FIPRESCI roundtable, Undercurrent #1, with Klaus Eder, Julie Rigg, Richard Kuipers, Adrian Martin, Roslyn Petelin
- "Bazin on criticism, 1943"
- "Bazin on criticism, 1958"
- Adrian Martin, "Responsability and Criticism", #7
- Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, "The rise and fall of criticism", Film Quarterly

HarryTuttle said...

I guess I missed a couple of those that were on your list already. Sorry about that.

Matthew Flanagan said...

Unbelievable, Catherine. You spoil us.

Great recs too, Harry. That interview with Adrian is essential...

Catherine Grant said...

Thanks all - especially to Harry. No worries about slight repetition - it's a long list to take in! But it's great to be reminded of the posts of Bazin and discover Geoffrey Nowell-Smith's great article.

Divers and Sundry said...

Happy anniversary! I enjoy reading you. I learn so much following your links. Thanks!

Jandy Stone said...

Incredible list - bookmarking for future reference.

Thanks so much for compiling these links all the time! They're immensely useful, especially for lapsed academics like me who no longer have access to academic libraries.

omar ahmed said...

Simply outstanding and astounding in terms of resources. An amazingly detailed post, could be here for the rest of the month in a good way though. Thank you for generosity, Catherine. I will add you to my blog roll.

Adrian said...

Thanks for a fantastic and wonderfully useful year of your peerless blog work, Catherine! Just remember to get some more of your own critical writing done between epic net-searches, your stuff is too good for us to be without ...