American Avant-Garde Cinema's Philosophy of the In-Between

ISBN : 9780190949716

Rebecca A. Sheehan
296 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
May 2020
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Can films philosophize rather than simply represent philosophical ideas developed outside of the cinematic medium? Taking up this crucial question for the emergent field of film philosophy, American Avant-Garde Cinema's Philosophy of the In-Between argues that the films of the American avant-garde do in fact do philosophy and illuminates the ethical stakes of their aesthetic interventions. Author Rebecca A. Sheehan contends that American avant-garde cinema's characteristic self-reflexivity is an interrogation of the modes and stakes of our engagement with the world on and beyond the screen. The book demonstrates this with the theory of the in-between: a pervasive figure that helps clarify how avant-garde cinema's reflections on the creation of images construct an ethics of perception itself, a responsibility to perpetuate thought in an enduring re-encounter with the world and with meaning's unfinished production.

The book is structured by a taxonomy of the multiple in-betweens evident in American avant-garde filmmaking. Rather than systematically seeking reproductions of particular philosophers' ideas in avant-garde films, Sheehan derives categories of analysis and the philosophical claims they disclose from close readings of the films themselves. This methodology opposes mapping preconfigured philosophical concepts and values onto these films, as too many philosophical approaches to cinema have done, silencing the philosophies uniquely articulated by these films in the interest of making them ventriloquize philosophies advanced elsewhere. The chapters of this book trace three modes of the in-between that function philosophically in American avant-garde cinema: the material, the dimensional, and the conceptual. Although the chapters are organized around discrete aesthetic and philosophical preoccupations that unify several filmmakers, these three presentations of the in-between cut through all the chapters, allowing the subjects of each to converse over the course of the book.


Introduction: Philosophizing Films
Chapter One: 'Here are Materials Strewn Along the Ground': The Ethical Aesthetics of the Ordinary
Chapter Two: The American Avant-Garde's Landscape Philosophy
Chapter Three: Disassembling Vision Through Dimensional In-Betweens
Chapter Four: From Figures of Paradox to a Philosophy of Review

About the author: 

Rebecca A. Sheehan is Associate Professor of Cinema and Television Arts at California State University, Fullerton. She received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from University of Pennsylvania and has been a Visiting Assistant Professor of English at Haverford College, and a Visiting Associate Professor of Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard University.
She is the co-editor of Border Cinema: Reimagining Identity Through Aesthetics (2019). Her work on topics ranging from experimental cinema, sculpture and cinema, epistolary cinema, the biopic and border cinema has appeared in edited book collections and various journals including Discourse, Screen, and Screening the Past.

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