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Circulating within the Modern Cinematic Image

Class at Faculty of Arts |




Please note that to enroll in this course you should have a level of C1 in English.

Faculty: doc. Erik S. Roraback, D.Phil. (Oxon.)

Docent, Habilitation: Charles University, Faculty of Arts & Philosophy; Dir., American Literature & Cultural-Studies, Charles University; FAMU-International, 2003–present; Affiliate Associate Professor, University of Washington,

Seattle, WA, USA, 2019–present; University Visiting Research Fellowship, University of Winchester, Winchester, UK, 2014–23; Visiting Scholar, University of Washington, Seattle, USA, 2015–19; Visiting Researcher, Universität Konstanz, Konstanz, Germany 2004–14; Visiting Professor, Université de Provence, Aix-en-Provence, France, 2005; Doctor of Philosophy (viva voce examiners, Terry Eagleton, St. Catherine’s College, Oxford & Maud Ellmann, King’s College, University of Cambridge) & College Tutor (Magdalen College & Mansfield College), University of Oxford, Oxford, UK; Oxford/École Normal Supérieure Exchange, Paris, France; Rotary Foundation Graduate Ambassadorial Scholar, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia; Bachelor of Arts, Pomona College, Claremont, CA, USA; Pomona College Program (Dir., All Souls College) at University College, Oxford, UK

Contact: e-mail: or

Individual web site:

Office hours:

After seminar and by e-mail appointment; TBA, Room 219c, Faculty of Arts, Charles University, Jana Palacha 1/2, Prague 1


The aim of this course is to awaken for the active spectator, in terms of aesthetic, cultural capital and politics, new utopian ways of being, dreaming, interpreting, looking, and thinking as so many forms of “labor” and of

“movement”. Combining these will promote an ecology of dialectical questioning and thinking about new, utopian post-capitalist forms of beauty, equality, and freedom for the twenty-first century. These movement and labor forms are dialectically subject within the space of the cinematic frame and institution to both regressive-capitalist and progressive-emancipatory-post-capitalist forms of “circulation”. The seminar thus draws on, and explores egalitarian and novel non-hegemonic ways of engaging gestures, ideas, images, and scenes in films from a range of modernist global films and world-auteurs: Maya Deren (Ukraine/USA), Sergei Eisenstein (USSR), Carl Theodor Dreyer (Denmark), D.W. Griffith (USA), Buster Keaton (USA), Fritz Lang (Austria), Friedrich Murnau (Germany), Dziga Vertov (USSR), and Orson Welles (USA). Cinema as the art of forms of movement thus will be evaluated anew. Attention will be given to those cinematic moments and scenes that teach and that train us in new non-dominatory and emancipated viewing strategies of movement and circulation as so many forms of utopian thinking and looking. In so doing, we consider arts and forms of movement and circulation as not only subject to capitalist commodification, but also as modes of active and transformative engagement, interpretation, and thinking that take place precisely in a shared space for post-capitalist common content, creation, and thought for post-capitalist and emancipated utopian forms of circulation and circulationism. The role of cinematic silence and of the unconscious in film culture will also be assessed.

Critical and theoretical literature engaged will include film aesthetics, criticism, and philosophy from Theodor W. Adorno (Germany), Nico Baumbach (Italy), André Bazin (France), Walter Benjamin (Germany), Leo Bersani-Ulysse Dutoit (USA), David A. Cook (USA), Maya Deren (Ukraine), Gilles Deleuze (France), Sergei Eisenstein (USSR), Janet Harbord (UK), Owen Hulatt (USA), Sarah Keller (USA), Fredric Jameson (USA), Siegfried Kracauer (Germany), Niklas Luhmann (Germany), Todd McGowan (USA), Christian Metz (France), Edgar Morin (France), Jacques Rancière (France), Josh Robinson (USA), Erik S. Roraback (USA/Czechia), Steven Shaviro (USA), Bernard Stiegler (France), Robert T. Tally Jr. (USA), François Truffaut (France), and Slavoj Žižek (Slovenia/UK).

Cultural Mobility: A Manifesto by Stephen Greenblatt (USA), inter alia, will also be engaged. The course is conducted in English and all films are either in English or have English inter-titles or sub-titles. Clips and special features will also be shown. To allow sufficient time for lecture/discussion, presentations, and screenings, the course will consist of three clock hours (i.e., four academic hours). We shall engage our target pictures in a counterintuitive counter chronological way in order to undercut overly facile teleological ways of thinking and of reasoning; this will also provide us with a different perspective on the development of the cultural system of film.

Course Requirements:

To receive credit for the seminar students must 1) have no more than two absences out of the twelve total weekly sessions (three absences are strictly unallowed); arriving more than ten minutes late at the beginning of the seminar or leaving early will be considered an absence for that full session. 2) give one oral presentation on a film and on the required text(s) for that week 3) submit a mid-term essay and 4) produce a final essay

Final essay (3000 words; due 22 December): 30%,

Mid-term essay (1500 words; due 14 November): 20%,

Oral presentation: 20%,

Attendance and participation: 30%

Essay topics will be distributed at least two weeks before they are due.

Arriving more than ten minutes late at the beginning of the seminar, or leaving early, will be considered an absence for that session. During class time, mobile phones are to be off and computers may be on for note-taking only and not for doing work online.

Weekly Schedule:

Week 1, Tuesday 3 October:

Experimental Film from Maya Deren

Pre-film lecture and screening:

Meshes of the Afternoon (1943, 14 minutes) with Alexander Hammid; At Land (1944, 15 minutes);

A Study in Choreography for Camera (1945, 3 minutes); Ritual in Transfigured Time (1946, 14 minutes).

Post-film lecture/discussion

Erik Roraback will lead a discussion of selected texts in Essential Deren: Collected Writings on Film by Maya Deren, in Maya Deren: Incomplete Control by Sarah Keller and in Maya Deren and the American Avant-

Garde ed. by Bill Nichols.

Week 2, Tuesday 10 October:

The Early Sound Soviet Cinema and the Late-Style Quiet Eisenstein

Pre-film lecture and screening:

Portions of Ivan the Terrible, Part One (1945 Russian with English subtitles, 99 minutes); Ivan the Terrible, Part Two (1946, Russian with English subtitles, 85 minutes), dir. Sergei Eisenstein.

Post-film lecture/discussion

Readings: D. Cook: A History, pp. 302–03.

G. Lambert: “Cinema and the Outside” in The Brain is the Screen, pp. 253–92.

E. Roraback: “Dialectical Linkages and Circulations; or, the Moves and Capitals of Silence of

Eisenstein’s Ivan the Terrible, Parts I & II”.

Part of a book being prepared for publication.

Week 3, Date To Be Announced and Week 4, Tuesday 24 October:

Orson Welles, American Film and the Advent of the Time-Image

Pre-film lecture and screening:

Citizen Kane (1941, 119 min., dir. Orson Welles).

Post-film lecture/discussion

Rdgs: D. Cook: A History, pp. 327–46.

G. Deleuze: Cinema 2, pp. 98–155.

E. Roraback: “A Spheric and Moving Cosmic Form: Cultural Capital and Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane (1941)”. Revised version of a lecture given at the University of Szeged (Hungary, 2003) and of an article subsequently published in Boston, USA in Parallax: A Journal of International Perspectives (2008), ed. David L. Robbins. As are all the pieces by E.R., it is now a subunit of a volume in preparation.

The Lost Nirvana and Orson Welles’s Lost Magnum Opus

Pre-film lecture and screening:

The Magnificent Ambersons (1942, 82 min., dir. Orson Welles).

Post-film lecture/discussion

Rdgs: D. Cook: A History, pp. 327–46.

G. Deleuze: Cinema 2, pp. 98–155.

E. Roraback: “Multisensorial Evocations & Provocations of Capital Lost: Orson Welles’s The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)”. Revised version of a guest lecture given at the Research

Colloquium of prof. Aleida Assmann, English Department, Universität Konstanz, Germany, 2/2006; invited by prof. Assmann and dr. Michael Frank.

F. Truffaut: “Foreword” to André Bazin’s Orson Welles: A Critical View, pp. 1–27.

Week 5, Tuesday 31 October: Silent Soviet Film, Dialectical Montage and the Camera-Eye

Pre-film lecture and screening:

Man with a Movie Camera (1929, 68 min., Russian intertitles with English subtitles, dir. Dziga


Post-film lecture/discussion

Rdgs: D. Cook: A History, pp. 116–18.

G. Deleuze: Cinema 1: The Movement-Image, pp. 39–43.

E. Roraback, “The Autopoietic Cinema of Big Movement Capitals of Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera, 1929”. Part of a book that is being prepared for publication.

Week 6, Tuesday 7 November: Silent Film and the Close-Up

Pre-film lecture and screening:

The Passion of Joan of Arc (La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc, 1928, 82 min., French intertitles with