MS 190: Authorship is the course website for the Fall 2006 Media Studies senior seminar at Pomona College in Claremont, California.
Let me apologize ahead of time. This post has almost nothing to do with authorship. It does, however, slightly relate to my thesis idea[s] so I thought I'd throw it up here and get a few opinions.
This year the organizers of Madrid's Fashion Week have decided that the average runway model is--brace yourselves--too thin. The average runway model is currently 5'9" and 110 pounds. For you BMI-buffs out there, that's a body mass index of 16.2, a good 2.3 points below normal (read: healthy) BMI (http://www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/). Now, the same 5'9" model must weight at LEAST 123 pounds to strut the catwalk.
I'm too tired to come up with a witty title...or even a relevant one.
So I'll progress directly to my response to the reading.
I feel like there was a lot going on here, a lot being said, and a lot of different angles being taken on the same basic question. However, very little of it stood out to me. Maybe I read the wrong chapters, sadly I did not have the time to read every chapter in the book. However, the one thing that did really grab my eye (maybe because it occurred early in the book before my mind became completely oversaturated with endless permutations of author and auteur) was Janet Staiger's discussion of the "issue of agency in authorship" (51). Questions of agency are among the most interesting to me. I've gotten the impression that I give a lot more thought to my own personal agency and the ways in which it is affected in social interactions and the ways in which I can preserve a sense of it, even in the face of disempowering situations.
Forgive me if I'm getting ahead of the text here, but i just got finished reading a line of Janet Staiger's essay and I wanted to comment on it before I trudged on. The part I'm referring to is on page 32, where she talks about Kael's statement that "Mankiewicz's authorship has been obscured in favor of Welle's contributions..."
The idea of community authorship is one that I bet pops up in this book many many times, but speaking in the present, film and video productions are interesting in terms of authorship, as so many authors are involved. The fact that a film is derived from a screenplay, which is in some sense the "true" work.
So...I hate to report this on the blog that our professor can read but....my book has not arrived in the mail yet. I ordered it about 2 weeks ago. I was really hoping it would be here today...but it's not.
Is someone done with their book so I can have a cram sesh tonight/tomorrow? I will reward you with praises and laud.
I live in Clark 1 206. Someone help me, I'm drowning in a dark abyss of dispair due to my lack of knowledge about film and authorship.
While I was studying abroad in Florence, I took an Italian film class which focused on Italian films whose directors were from the south, or that featured portrayals of the south. One of the last films we watched was L'Ultimo Bacio, a recently released film that had nothing to do with any of the cinematic themes we'd spent the semester examining. The film featured an attractive but bland 30-something young couple, engaged to be married. The fiance, Carlo, freaks out about becoming a grown up, and may or may not have an affair with an 18 year old girl. And that was it-- no style, no rich symbolism, no nothing.
Is it bad that I didn't know who Oscar Micheaux was before reading this article? Probably. But, after discovering who he was through the wonders of Wikipedia, I really enjoyed Chapter Six "Intentions and Mass Culture: Oscar Micheaux, Identity, and Authorship" (maybe because it was easy to understand--).
Bits I found interesting (OR, a list of things that I feel unable to elaborate on):
The problems inherent on relying on mass consumption to circulate oppositional messages (in the case of Micheaux, to rewrite images of race).
The notion of acting and producing in a critical and progressive manner: sure, like most MS people, this has crossed my mind before, but seemed particularly interesting in the context of Micheaux and his films. It's nice to be reminded that sometimes a good message isn't enough.
Living in Westwood this summer, I had the chance to go to a few of the films screened during the LA film festival. One of them was, "This Film is Not Yet Rated", a film about the movie rating system. (The film is in theaters now, go check it out if you're interested). The intention of the director, Kirby Dick, is to expose the giant grasp the MPAA has on the film industry and the gross biases with which the MPAA operates. Relating to authorship, however, I think the film implicitly brings up some good issues -- primarily, what is the interplay between censorship and authorship? If an author is not given total creative license to produce whatever he or she wants, does this affect his or her authorship?
I am relieved that Staiger considers the more structuralist approaches (Barthes, Foucault) as "dodges" (46), because that is definitely how I saw them. I feel that, in the end, we are just going to realize that "expression of the self [is] a viable, if contingent, act" (49). To me, that means that yes, the author is important, but not all-important. If we as a society and as individuals can act in moderation while assessing authorial value, then we can avoid so much meta discussion. It seems to me that the real dodge here is discussing authorship instead of authoring. When do we start writing our theses?
Wow! I did not realize how much time and effort academics have put into studying this idea of authorship! Janet Staiger's article sums up seven approaches taken so far in these studies, and I find the last three particularly interesting (author as reading strategy, site of discourses, technique of the self.) They seem to explain the transition that happened from our first week's readings to our second week's readings, namely from the structuralist idea that the author is dead to the more post-structuralist idea that a plurality of voices must be recognized. They take it one step further, though, by making a distinction that I think we were getting at last time; we go from having no author ("insistent unconscious writing by material discourses" ) to having an author as a representative, a performative that is "the repetition of [individual] statements" (51). This is powerful in that it acknowledges voices without putting too much emphasis on them. This approach is helpful in addressing issues of agency for minorities, which we brought up with bell hooks and Marchessault.
I took a class while studying abroad about cinema and literature and we devoted a large part of our time to the analysis of cinematic adaptations of literary works. Since then I have been very interested in the comparison of the two mediums and this dichotomy between the written and the visual modes of story telling. While reading one of the essays in Authorship and Film, I was reminded of that class and this discussion of cinema vs. literature. Janet Staiger in her essay "Authorship Approaches," quotes Astruc as saying "cinema is becoming a language, which allows it to break free from the tyranny of what is visual, from the image for its own sake...to become a means of writing just as flexible and subtle as written language."