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Crash: Cinema and the Politics of Speed and Stasis [Paperback]

Karen Beckman

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Book Description

Aug. 3 2010
Artists, writers, and filmmakers from Andy Warhol and J. G. Ballard to Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Ousmane Sembene have repeatedly used representations of immobilized and crashed cars to wrestle with the conundrums of modernity. In Crash Karen Beckman argues that representations of the crash parallel the encounter of film with other media (particularly the still image of photography), and that these collisions between media offer useful ways to think about alterity. Examining the significance of automobile collisions in film genres including the "cinema of attractions," slapstick comedies, and industrial-safety movies, Beckman reveals how the car crash gives visual form to fantasies and anxieties regarding speed and stasis, risk and safety, immunity and contamination, and impermeability and penetration. Her reflections on the crash as the traumatic, uncertain moment of inertia that comes in the wake of speed and confidence challenge the tendency in cinema studies to privilege movement above film's other qualities. Ultimately, Beckman suggests, film studies is a hybrid field that cannot apprehend its object of study without acknowledging the ways that cinema's technology binds it to capitalism's industrial systems and a variety of other media, technologies, and disciplines.

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"Karen Beckman's new book, Crash: Cinema and the Politics of Speed and Stasis, is an inventive exploration of the startling figure of the car crash in the history of film, critical theory, and art practice. In this compelling book, Beckman invokes the crash as a way of working through questions of mobility and stasis, security and transgression, medium hybridity, and technology, spectatorship, and the body in new and exciting ways. Moving fluidly from the comic and reflexive moments of the car crash in early and silent cinema, to concerns with accident and trauma, especially in non-theatrical films from the thirties to the sixties, and then to the more contemporary work of Warhol, Ballard, Inarritu, Godard, and Davenport, Beckman exhibits an impressive range of historical, artistic, and theoretical interests, while showing convincingly how the trope of the car crash weaves its way into the cultural life of the twentieth century in ways that parallel Wolfgang Schivelbusch's pioneering work on the train accident in the nineteenth century. This is a path-breaking book of broad interest to readers in art history, film studies, and critical theory." D. N. Rodowick, Professor of Visual & Environmental Studies, Harvard University "Crash: Cinema and the Politics of Speed and Stasis is an extraordinarily original intervention in contemporary 'technophilic' discourses (even critical ones) focused on speed and mobility. As it resonates through a variety of cinematic and literary texts, Karen Beckman views the "car crash" vividly (and viscerally) as a startling visual image, narrative thematic, and critical metaphor for what drives our contradictory desires for "automobility," inertia, feeling, and community on a collision course both productive and destructive. As she moves across theories and disciplines, Beckman's textual and cultural analyses come together in a work that is passionate, illuminating, and politically engaged. Crash is a major contribution to film and media studies, comparative literature, art history, and cultural studies and, indeed, is a model of interdisciplinary scholarship." Vivian Sobchack, author of Carnal Thoughts: Embodiment and Moving Image Culture

About the Author

Karen Beckman is the Elliot and Roslyn Jaffe Professor of Film Studies in the Department of the History of Art, and Director of the Program in Cinema Studies, at the University of Pennsylvania. She is author of "Vanishing Women: Magic, Film, and Feminism" and coeditor, with Jean Ma, of "Still Moving: Between Cinema and Photography," both also published by Duke University Press.

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5.0 out of 5 stars "Histories of cinema and automobile are inextricably intertwined." Oct. 7 2011
By ROROTOKO - Published on
This book is on the Rorotoko list. Professor Beckman's interview on "Crash" ran as the Rorotoko Cover Feature on February 28, 2011 and can be read in the Rorotoko archive).

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