Pre-eminent media theorist Mary Ann Doane to lecture at York

Pre-eminent American cinema and media scholar Mary Ann Doane gives four free public lectures in the Norman Jewison Series as the concluding segment of Where is the Medium?, the 2010 Joan and Martin Goldfarb Summer Institute in Visual Arts & Film at York University.

The George Hazard Croker Professor of Modern Culture & Media at Brown University, Doane brings her expertise in film theory, feminist theory and semiotics to her illustrated talks, June 7 to 10 at 2:30pm in the Nat Taylor Cinema, N102 Ross Building on York’s Keele campus.

Right: Mary Ann Doane

In her lectures, Doane will share a central theme of her current research, which questions the usefulness of thinking in terms of specific media categories in the visual arts and cinema in an increasingly inter-medial and interdisciplinary world.

The first lecture, “The Close-Up: Immobility and Scale in the Cinema”, on June 7, posits that amidst the euphoria of a host of new technologies, the scale of the screen – the property of being “larger than life” – has re-emerged as one of cinema’s most significant qualities. This lecture examines the close-up of the human face, the female face in particular, as a privileged site where extreme size and cinematic time congeal to engulf the spectator in contemplation.

Doane asks: Does the desire to lose oneself in the close-up of the female star’s smooth, poreless, wrinkle-free face function as a protection against the movement of time and its inevitable corruption? Does the timeless temporality of the close-up function as an attempt to halt the vertiginous movement of ever-shifting technologies of representation?

In “Has Time Become Space?” on June 8, Doane notes that theorists and philosophers from Henri Bergson to Fredric Jameson have pointed to the process of spatializing time as a key characteristic of both modernity and postmodernity. Time, once experienced as duration or flow, has become a static, spatial, divisible entity that can be partitioned and commodified. Doane asks what the spatialization of time means for a time-based medium like the cinema. Concentrating on the figure of the filmic ellipsis (as a device for eliding time) in the works of Hiroshi Sugimoto, Tsai Ming-liang and Jim Campbell, this lecture explores a crisis in and around the commodification of time in an intensely mediated culture.

In her lecture on June 9 titled “The Female Face, the Cityscape and Modernity in a Transcultural Context”, Doane looks at Shanghai films of the 1930s such as Twin Sisters (1933), New Woman (1934), Street Angel (1937), Daybreak (1933) and The Goddess (1934). Bringing into play the figures of the “new woman,” the prostitute and the star, the female characters in these films act as the site of a conflicted negotiation between western modernity and more local historical representational systems, says Doane. She investigates how the female face in these productions functioned to stabilize the epistemological uncertainties associated with modernity.

In her concluding lecture, “Does the Medium Matter?”, on June 10, Doane notes that in the work of cultural theorists Stanley Cavell, Rosalind Krauss and David Rodowick, photography and film have become crucial to the discussion of the fate of the concept of the medium. In an age more and more frequently labelled as “post-medium", this lecture examines the ways in which the figures of film and photography generate an insistent questioning of “the medium” at this decisive moment in its critical history.

Doane’s books include The Emergence of Cinematic Time: Modernity, Contingency, the Archive (Harvard University Press, 2002); Femmes Fatales: Feminism, Film Theory, Psychoanalysis (Routledge, 1991); and The Desire to Desire: The Woman’s Film of the 1940s (Indiana University Press, 1987). She has also published a wide range of articles on feminist film theory, sound in the cinema, psychoanalytic theory, sexual and racial difference in film, melodrama and television. A former Guggenheim Fellow and the 2005 invitational Christian Gauss lecturer at Princeton University, she serves on the editorial board of Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies and as an advisory editor for the journals Camera Obscura and Parallax.

About the 2010 Joan & Martin Goldfarb Summer Institute

The proliferation of digital media and a continuing movement toward the dissolution of the art object call into question the continuing validity and significance of “medium specificity”. At a time when artists increasingly engage the moving image via a range of technologies spanning cinema, Web, television, museum and gallery, the 2010 Joan & Martin Goldfarb Summer Institute in Visual Arts & Film asks, “Where is the Medium?” Invited speakers offer a series of events exploring the boundaries and intersections between the disciplines of the visual arts, art history and film.

The Summer Institute is named in recognition of Joan & Martin Goldfarb, long-standing supporters of York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, whose generous gift has made this annual residency program possible.