Scholarly Striptease. Or, The Unintended Consequences of Film Studies For Free
by Catherine Grant — University of Sussex
December 01, 2014 – 00:00
In "Little Books", a contribution to Grieveson and Wasson’s 2008 collection Inventing Film Studies, Mark Betz wrote (about internet cinephilia or fandom) that, online and digitally, "the repressed film culture that gave birth to film studies has returned with a vengeance".
When I created my open-access campaigning blog Film Studies For Free that same year, little did I realize how much of its energy would come from just this kind of unleashed enthusiasm. When I first began work on it, during a voluntary two-year break in my paid academic career, I set out simply to gather links to existing, online Film Studies scholarship of note, not to reconnect, deeply, with what had made me choose my subject in the first place. But I soon found that this curatorial role was just the beginning of an unexpectedly active exploration of emergent critical and cinephile modes online. My passionate attachment to these forms overcame my fear that experiments with them, even in the public sphere, might not be taken seriously.
The video embedded here is an example of this. Ostensibly a piece of uncreative writing, as Kenneth Goldsmith might put it, made in 2011 for a cinephile blogathon, ‘Refashioning the Femme Fatale?’ played (perversely) with the scholarly form of a reader, offering an (audiovisual) introduction to issues of gender and movement in relation to Rita Hayworth’s performance as Gilda in Charles Vidor’s 1946 film. Instead of aiming to generate completely new insights, this ‘rich text object’ attempted (within the average duration of a YouTube fan clip) to combine quotations from existing film scholarship on its topic with a much-loved sequence from the featured film in order to provide a meaningful, scholarly and affective, immersive experience. Making fair use of the possibilities for moving image studies offered by online accessibility, I argued at the time, works like this might well profit from feeling a little like fan videos and introductory film studies all at once.
‘Refashioning the Femme Fatale?’ was only my fourth published piece of videographic scholarship; it was more originary than I could see at the time. Out of its teasingly ragged margins came a deeper belief in the value of a playful, non-precious attitude to media studies scholarship as practice – one which has pleasingly helped into existence other transitional objects and open source possibilities.