Abstract

When cinema studies was institutionalized in the Anglo-American academy starting in the late 1960s, film scholars for the most part turned away from preexisting traditions of film theorizing in favor of new theories then becoming fashionable in the humanities, principally semiotics and psychoanalysis. Earlier, so-called “classical” film theories—by which I mean, very broadly, film theories produced before the advent of psychoanalytic-semiotic film theorizing in the late ′60s—were either ignored or rejected as naive and outmoded. Due to the influence of the Left on the first generation of film academics, some were even dismissed as “idealist” or in other ways politically compromised. There were, of course, some exceptions. The work of pre-WWII left-wing thinkers and filmmakers such as Benjamin, Kracauer, the Russian Formalists, Bakhtin, Vertov, and Eisenstein continued to be translated and debated, and, due principally to the efforts of Dudley Andrew, André Bazin's film theory remained central to the discipline, if only, for many, as something to be overcome rather than built upon. Translations of texts by Jean Epstein appeared in October and elsewhere in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and Richard Abel's two-volume anthology, French Film Theory and Criticism 1907–1939 (1988), generated interest in French film theory before Bazin. But on the whole, classical film theory was rejected as a foundation for contemporary film theorizing, even by film theorists like Noël Carroll with no allegiance to semiotics and psychoanalysis.

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