These are the words a close friend used to describe how she feels as a university student. Bloated with access, information, and technology; starved for actual teaching, mentorship, and plain human contact.

She is receiving a graduate degree from a major (non-profit) American institution.  She rarely meets her colleagues or her instructor. Seminars are online and informal.  Her assignments include endless and shapeless bibliographies, aggregated and linked from tidy Blackboard pages.  She sends work into a void and receives grades in return.  After three years, she will have paid $30,000 in tuition, without ever having used anything other than the administrative services of the University.

This is just one (terrible) program.  But I think (fear) it foreshadows changes to come (or already here), namely the large-scale business modeling of higher education.  Doing more with less looks a whole lot like turning a major profit with no effort at all.


Menilmontant (Kirsanoff, 1926)

I am teaching a seminar entitled “Global Silent Cinema” next semester.  This course will introduce students to the eccentricities and complexities of cinema’s first three decades. Each week will be guided by a different concept (e.g. language, narrative, the archive, etc.).

I am just starting to make my way through a long list of possible films for the course.  I recently rescreened Ménilmontant, Dmitri Kirsanoff’s intertitle-less short from 1926, and made a first pass at gathering together the work that’s been done on the film.  Much of this writing focuses on the film’s experimental narrative form.  Richard Abel argues that the film is structured by series of losses and substitutions. Richard Prouty pivots from this claim to read the film’s spatial and narrative economies: Continue reading


Cleveland Street Gap (Courtney Egan and Helen Hill, 2006)

Still thinking about histories of film and the environment.  How would one tell this history? What filmmakers are working at this site of intersection?  Helen Hill’s work seems like an interesting starting point.  The film embedded above includes footage that Hill shot before Hurricane Katrina, marked by the flood waters that filled her home. Continue reading


I use this (beautiful) short during my first week of Film History.  We read an excerpt from Edward Said’s “Beginnings” alongside it.  Together, the film and text raise a number of interesting questions about the relationship between photography/film, old/new media, science/spectacle. Both (film and text) likewise trouble the security of film objects and origins, and call attention to the difficulty of beginning (to teach, write, and communicate history).

The short comes from Adam Quirk, Aaron Valdez, and Eric Nelson of Wreck and Salvage, the team responsible for the viral four-part series, “Everything is a Remix.”