The subject of history and the clutter of phenomena

Authored by: John Caughie

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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This chapter is intended as a post hoc reflection on a three-year project on early cinema in Scotland between 1896 and 1927. 1 It addresses issues of historiography, of the geography of exhibition, and of film representation in a small nation which does not have a sustainable indigenous production sector. In this sense, it aims to address issues which are familiar to new cinema history. At the same time, it engages with the troubling question of what the history of cinema has to do with the history of film. It is shaped by the initial proposition of the project that the major output would not be a monograph that would synthesize the data to produce a coherent argument, but would instead be a website that in some way reflected the complexity of data: the specificities of localities, contexts, venues, and organization. The attraction of the web, whatever its real practical difficulties, is that it is an open assemblage rather than a closed narrative and that it is dynamic, accessible, and open to comment and amendment. The danger of the web is that data accumulate and argument is lost: too much information and not enough meaning.

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