Shadows, Screens, Bodies, and Light

Reading the Discursive Shadow in the Age of American Silent Cinema

in Screen Bodies
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  • 1 Portland State University, USA aeborden@pdx.edu
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Abstract

Considering how American publications wrote about x-ray, still, and photochemical motion pictures as shadows reveals a discursive bridge among the three varieties from the performance practice of ombromanie (shadowgraphy). This process produced shadows of performing bodies where the bodies were accompanied by the impression created by the interaction of the bodies and the light source. That organization of bodies and technology, as complex as a body and a fluoroscope or as low-tech as hands, a candle, and a screen, can help historians contextualize popular narratives of early cinema that suggested audiences believed that motion pictures were real enough to jump offscreen. The resulting images drag the profilmic event and the peculiarities of the medium into a cultural understanding of cinema's potential to both represent and display life in motion.

Contributor Notes

Amy E. Borden is an Associate Professor of Film Studies in the School of Film at Portland State University. In her research and courses, she specializes in US silent film history, Gilded Age visual culture, classical film theory, and undergraduate pedagogical practices. She is currently writing a book-length study examining the origins of the film–mind analogy in classical film theory, which focuses on the theorization of motion pictures in Gilded Age American magazines. She has presented her work on silent film cycles and American nativist cinema nationally and internationally. Her work has appeared in anthologies and journals including Jump Cut; Beyond the Screen: Institutions, Networks, and Publics of Early Cinema; Cycles, Sequels, Remakes and Reboots: Multiplicities in Film and Television; A Companion to the Gangster Film; and The Routledge Companion to Cinema and Gender. Email: aeborden@pdx.edu

Screen Bodies

The Journal of Embodiment, Media Arts, and Technology

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