Connections, intermediality, and the anti-archive

A conversation with Robert C. Allen

Authored by: Robert C. Allen

The Routledge Companion to New Cinema History

Print publication date:  February  2019
Online publication date:  February  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138955844
eBook ISBN: 9781315666051
Adobe ISBN:


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Robert C. Allen is one of the pioneers of the empirical study of cinema and film history (e.g. Allen, 1979), often referred to as “revisionist film history” since the mid-1980s. His 1985 book Film History: Theory and Practice with Douglas Gomery (Allen and Gomery, 1985) was a landmark in film historiography and still guides many a cinema and film historian. Besides his well-known work on television soap opera (Allen, 1985, 1994), Allen has inspired generations of film historians. His debate with Ben Singer in Cinema Journal on the composition of nickelodeon audiences in Manhattan is legendary by now (Singer, 1995; Allen, 1996). In a seminal 1990 article in Screen (Allen, 1990), he launched an agenda for decades of historical audience studies, while in two articles in the 2000s, he articulated the empirical and the geographical turn in cinema studies (Allen, 2006a, 2006b). With Richard Maltby and Melvyn Stokes, he also co-edited one volume (2007) in their groundbreaking series, which points the way to a more contextual and audience-centered cinema studies. Besides his theoretical and conceptual contributions, Allen equally remains at the forefront of cutting-edge technological and methodological innovations in the field of cinema and film history, demonstrating how the methods and materials of digital humanities can stimulate new research questions and new ways of engaging with the audiences for cinema history. It comes as no surprise then that his pioneering digital cinema history project “Going to the Show” (2009) 1 received the American Historical Association’s Rosenzweig Award for Innovation in Digital History. In the following conversation with Richard Maltby and Philippe Meers, at the [email protected] conference in Potsdam in July 2016, 2 Allen covers various key issues for the field of (new) cinema history.

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