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Modernist Extra-Cinematic Montage

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Organizer: Nikita Allgire

Co-Organizer: Jayson Lantz

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Although entering the English language in the late 1920s by way of early theories of cinema and the art of the European Modernist avant-garde, the conceptual and historical trajectories of montage extend well beyond the cinematic. Already in Littré’s 19th century dictionary, decades prior to the simultaneous inventions of cinema on both sides of the Atlantic, one finds not only the nominative forms of the French “monter,” meaning “to go up,” “to mount,” or “to ascend” but also senses related to ordering and to the cut—namely, the chosen order for the parts in a machine and the final step by which a sharpened piece of metal becomes a blade. Paradoxically enough, however, as montage crossed over into English, German, and Russian, it arrived orthographically intact, uncut, and almost entirely contained to the theory and practice of the cinematic image.

While tarrying with the concept’s fundamental links to Modernism, this seminar aims to interrogate montage beyond the realm of film editing, positing “extra-cinematic montage” as a capacious and variable concept beyond and below the specifically cinematic. We welcome proposals that consider practices of cutting and combination—across and between a wide variety of literary traditions, aesthetic forms, and representational media—and to bring montage in its most capacious sense into dialogue with other critical notions. In effect, we aim to consider montage as a device with which to approach and surmount textual meaning.  
Can montage be understood, for example, as a critical device or hermeneutic intervention into a text, one that centers on the “cut” as its organizational principle, opposing it to notions of contiguity, continuity, and non-dividedness? As the gap between elements grows, Montage asks the question of where the process of meaning breaks down, or rather, is this precisely the point at which meaning enters the montage? In another domain, might we follow Lacan to think montage as that which differentiates drive from instinct, a minimal and non-contiguous difference between elements, a “démontage of the drive,” as Maire Jaanus has it? How is this different from Straussean bricolage, Derridean différance, or other theoretical constructs? Alternatively, how might we challenge the stark binarism through which Christian Metz opposes “montage-roi” to narrative and “descriptive realism,” and can such distinctions even be maintained in literary or photographic traditions of montage?
We will limit the texts considered to the period of Modernism; however, we will consider any texts you would use as case studies in thinking through the concept of montage. Our seminar welcomes presentations and discussions on visual culture, theory, comics, and media. In the spirit of comparison, we welcome them in any field of area studies. We look forward to exploring this topic with you and hope to prompt thinking about conceptual montages that exceed the cinematic.

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