Dissertations

Sarah Dellmann (2015) Images of Dutchness – Popular Visual Media, the Emergence of National Clichés and the Creation of Supposed Common Knowledge about the Netherlands and the Dutch (1800-1914)

ABSTRACT

This dissertation investigates the function of images in the production of supposed common knowledge and the emergence of clichéd images about the Netherlands and the Dutch in the long nineteenth century. It explains which images communicated an idea of “Dutchness” and why they were able of doing so. To this end, the author analyzes images of various popular visual media that circulated widely at that time: illustrated magazines, illustrations in guide books, brochures for tourists, cartes de visite, series of etches, catchpenny prints, perspective prints, advertising trade cards, stereoscopic photographs, magic lantern slide sets, picture postcards and films of early cinema. The analysis are accompanied by detailed background information on these historical media as well as on the technical and epistemological preconditions for a realist depiction of people and places in terms of nationality.

The analysis focus on three aspects. Firstly, the author presents a visual analysis of the images. Secondly, the meaning that is ascribed to the images is investigated by taking captions and other forms of written comment into account. Thirdly, these image-text-combinations are explained within the broader context of discourses that aim to produce and circulate knowledge about the Netherlands and the Dutch, i.e. popularized anthropological discourse, popularized geographic discourse and tourist discourse. Through the analysis of images in the three discourses, the author can identify recurring motifs in combination with recurring categories and rhetoric strategies of the written comment that, together, enabled the formation of national clichés. She first traces the emergence of categories in terms of the national in descriptions of realist images of people and places. This combination of a history of iconography with a history of its meaning can account not only for the construction of what was said, and imaged, to be “typically Dutch”, but also the premises on which such statements could be uttered at all. This dissertation demonstrates that the meaning of an image largely depends on the line of reasoning of the respective discourse: the same motif can be used for various communicative aims. The meaning of an image is thus the result of performative signifying practices and not inherent to the image itself. This observation underlines the necessity to look with more nuance into the broader discursive context when investigating the meaning of an image. Another remarkable finding is that publications before c. 1880 use a more varied repertoire of images to illustrate the category “The Dutch”; only after that did the repertoire of motifs become more and more limited; an image of Volendammers only became a clichéd image of the Dutch only after c. 1880.


Cynthia Han (2014)  The Ties That Bind: The Chinese American Family in Transnational Chinese Cinema

ABSTRACT

The primary research question raised in the thesis is how have films been able to construct the identity of ethnic Chinese in the United States? This question is addressed through three sub-questions. First, why is the family narrative so characteristic of films about Chinese Americans in transnational Chinese cinema? In other words, how and why are images of Chinese or Chinese Americans in transnational Chinese cinema different from those in Hollywood movies? Second, how does transnational Chinese cinema define and negotiate the aesthetic conventions of melodrama commonly used to depict Chinese American families? That means in terms of establishing melodrama as an evolving mode of storytelling and the narrative device of the family melodrama, how does Chinese American cinema historically connect with both Hollywood and Chinese cinema? Melodrama is therefore almost used as a tool to explore how conflicts are played out in Chinese families, and to trace social, historical and aesthetic lineages. Third, what has the narrative treatments of Chinese American families in transnational Chinese cinema contributed to the ongoing representation of Chinese culture and construction of ethnic Chinese identities in Western societies?

By drawing on relevant methods and theories across different disciplines including Chinese Studies, American Studies, Film Studies, and Cultural Studies, with a sensitivity towards transnational bonds and historical processes, a negotiation process of three sets of conflicting forces has subsequently emerged from my analysis: the traditional and the modern (that is often associated with the Western), the national and the transnational, and Chinese American identity crisis in favor of a Chinese identity or a true American identity. Contrasting cultural beliefs undoubtedly create cross-cultural and generational conflicts within the family, yet on the other hand, they open the way to negotiation and compromise. This research on the cinematic depiction of Chinese Americans reveals the historically significant transnational connection among Chinese American, Chinese, and American cultures. On the one hand, ethnic Chinese are represented by boundaries that establish and define the Chinese American community against other communities, and thus are almost prescribed, yet on the other hand, the representation of family life and structure of Chinese immigrants is multiple and fluid, as culture itself is unstable and uncertain. It is interesting that a process of fixation and a process of fluidity seem to take place at the same time.

This study also adds to current discussions on controversial issues in the field of Chinese studies, American studies, film studies and cultural studies. First of all, given the growing scholarly interest in ethnicity that has marked American Studies, bringing Chinese studies and American studies into dialogue echoes the state-of-the-art debate that the diasporic subject position should not be viewed as a burden imposed on ethnic groups. Chinese American formations are not disconnected with Chinese or Americans. Although marginalized and pushed to be the periphery, to be Chinese American at the same time can be seen as a geocultural space and a rich middle ground, which has dissolved and preserved cultures that are well developed in both China and the United States. A focus on this hybrid space offers the potential of combining Chinese studies and American studies. A mixture of historical, transnational and cultural sensitivity has thus emerged from the interdisciplinary dialogue. My articulation of the Chinese American reveals the historically significant transnational connection among Chinese American, Chinese, and American cultures. This also confirms the point that Chinese culture, rather than being developed in total opposition to Western cultures, has been and is dialectically interactive with Western (American) culture.

This work also challenges an overly dominant focus on national cinema, by engaging with new approaches to cultural imagery and the cultural imaginary taking on in a transnational world. I argue that only when we examine Chinese cinemas from a perspective that is cross-national and diachronic, are we able to understand the lineage of Chinese aesthetics. Accordingly, another contribution to current debates in film studies is that I have delineated the twin processes of transnationalization and localization of melodrama, and hence melodrama has been used almost as an analytical tool to explore cultural sensitivity. I demonstrate how melodrama films can be used to specify the particular cultural and social context in which these films were produced and interpreted. By looking at the melodrama established in the Chinese film industry in the 1920s and 1930s, and that which has been enriched in contemporary Chinese cinema, the research unfolds the transnational cultural flow that has unsettled family melodrama. Therefore, my findings also contribute to the ongoing debate about “melodrama as a cultural form”. In an attempt to illuminate films with a particular focus on family relations and gender identity, our perceptions of transcultural entanglements have become more complicated. As the central concern of Chinese melodrama, the generational conflict repetitively played out in Chinese families – be they in the first decades of twentieth century in China or in contemporary American society – is deeply embedded in changing cultural and social norms.

My exploration of the representation of ethnicity in media and popular culture shows a sense of urgency that is needed in acknowledging the importance of transnational history, which can turn the past almost into a laboratory for studying the present. All the evolving connections that have been analyzed in this thesis show Chinese people being defined and redefined, which includes the Chinese defining and redefining themselves, their culture, and the world around them. It is the transnational and historical connections of ideas, practices, and images that form the special perspective on the representation of ethnic Chinese in this work. My thesis shows that the adoption of historicism and transnationalism is particularly important for cross-cultural analysis or the analysis of cross-cultural content.


Marina Turco (2014) Dancing Images: Text, Technology, and Cultural Participation in the “Communicative Dispositif” of VJing

ABSTRACT

 VJing, the practice of mixing video images live during a dance party, is a relatively new cultural form, which shows affinities with other contemporary media forms – film, video, computer games, mediatised theatre and the media arts – but appears to have a distinctive identity. Dancing with images is an experience that has its own peculiar meaning and value; it requires specific knowledge to be understood and the right “mood” to be enjoyed. It is difficult for the outsider to locate this practice in a cultural context (it hovers in the no-man’s land between art and entertainment), and to catch the meaning of moving images that do not clearly represent or narrate something and are perceived in motion. VJing does not fit completely with traditional categorisations in some of the most important fields of cultural analysis. Live visuals appear in very diverse forms that may fulfil different functions. They can be challenging for our structures of perception, trigger deep emotional reactions, or function as a superficial vortex of eye prickles; they can transmit ideological or political messages or just pimp the club with a cool look. Those forms are also differently related with the other elements that play a role in the production and reception of a VJ set: the subcultural context, which clearly influences the choice of the language and content of the visuals and their reception (there are mixing styles, techniques and contents that fit better in certain scenes or clubs than others), and the technological tools. What is the general value of VJing as a cultural practice then? And how does the video performance transmit ideas and emotions, norms and values within its specific subcultural field? Those two questions appeared to be strictly related.
In this study, the relationship between the general social and cultural processes that characterise clubbing and VJing and the semiotic processes within a single performance is analysed from a broad philosophical perspective. Drawing on Kattenbelt and Habermas I designed a “triadic approach” to VJing that distinguishes between three different orientations and types of communication both at the general level of the cultural field and at the level of the single performance. There is a subjective perspective where the images function as aesthetic objects, addressing the cognitive and affective perceptions of the clubbers; a normative perspective where the mix is understood in the frame of the norms and values of the cultural context – a means to conform to or to change the visual styles of the scene; an objective perspective that highlights the logical aspects of the VJ set, its adaptation to the party structures and the music, and its argumentative grid when it is used to take part in the cultural discourses of the dance community and to express ideas and opinions. The three orientations are “moving principles” that activate and steer processes and arrangements (dispositifs), between the concrete elements – technologies, texts and participatory behaviours – that constitute the practice of VJing.

Fransje de Jong (2013) Joodse ondernemers in het Nederlandse film- en bioscoopbedrijf tot 1940.

ABSTRACT

Jewish entrepreneurs have been remarkably present in all branches of the international film industry since the early 1910s, in the US as well as in Europe. This study contributes to our understanding of the relationship between the Jewish community and the film industry by focussing on the entrepreneurship of Jewish cinema owners and film distributors in the Netherlands during the interwar period. Between 1918 and 1940 Jews were both quantitatively and qualitatively overrepresented in the Dutch film business compared to their 2% share in the working population.How can we explain the concentration of this minority group in the Dutch film business during this era, and did it matter at all that these entrepreneurs were Jewish and to whom?

The central aim of this dissertation is to point out in what ways and to what extent Jewish identity, or the ethno-cultural minority position attached to it, affected the economic opportunities, activities and strategies of the Jewish entrepreneurs, and indirectly the film business. To get this insight, concrete economic activities of these entrepreneurs are analyzed in a group portrait. The focus is on so-called ‘external entrepreneurial strategies’. The study shows that the number of Jewish entrepreneurs in the Dutch film industry grew explosively between 1910 and 1918, due to a combination of political, economic and social circumstances that coincided in this specific development stage of the film business. A small Jewish minority became extremely visible for outsiders and within the industry itself. This led to a public image of the film sector as a predominantly Jewish business, even though the majority of film entrepreneurs in the Netherlands was still Catholic, and even though Jewish entrepreneurs hardly ever stressed their Jewish descent explicitly in public. Presumably in reaction to latent anti-Semitism that occasionally came to the surface on the one hand, and the perceived inferiority of the film sector on the other, Jewish film entrepreneurs put in fact an extraordinary amount of effort in demonstrating that they were above all decent, respectable, truly Dutch and ‘neutral’ entrepreneurs. Indirectly, Jewish identity influenced the way these entrepreneurs presented themselves in pillarized society. Jewish identity influenced entrepreneurship more directly in the formation of different Jewish entrepreneurial networks in the film sector based on common Jewish social backgrounds. And although the impact of Jewish traditions on daily economic activities proved to be very limited in general, a group of Jewish film entrepreneurs did integrate specific Jewish causes, such as Jewish Holidays, in their entrepreneurial activities, especially Eastern-European Jews. Within the Jewish community itself they presented themselves explicitly as Jewish entrepreneurs. The balance between expressing and not expressing Jewish identity in daily entrepreneurship was very much determined by the highly differentiated personal and social Jewish backgrounds of the film entrepreneurs in the Netherlands and the composition of the local environments in which they operated. It was also influenced by broader developments in the perception of the Jewish minority in society as a whole, such as the increasing stigmatisation of the Jewish minority in the 1930s.


Clara Pafort-Overduin (2012) Hollandse films met een Hollands hart. Nationale identiteit en de Jordaanfilms 1934-1936

ABSTRACT

“A Dutch film with a Dutch heart”, was the slogan used to promote DE JANTJES (Jaap Speyer,1934), the first successful Dutch feature sound film. Two other so called Jordaanfilms, BLEEKE BET (Richard Oswald & Alex Benno, 1934) and ORANJE HEIN (Max Nosseck, 1936) followed. These films were adaptations of theatre plays with the same names by Herman Bouber. This thesis asks three questions: What kind of representation of ‘Dutchness’ did these films offer to Dutch audiences? How did reviewers respond to these films? How successful were these films compared to other contemporary productions in the Dutch cinemas? The answers to these questions are set against the background of Dutch society in the 1930s which was characterised as being separated into four so called pillars: Protestants, Roman Catholics, Socialists and Conservatives.

Each of the three questions requires a different analysis and methodology. The question of representation is answered with the help of a comparative analysis of the original Jordaan plays and their filmic adaptations. The sense of national identity that spoke from the three Jordaan films shows the following characteristics: – political neutrality; – a sense of duty and devotion to duty that is expressed on the level of personal, social and economic relations; – a desire for a good and simple life within one’s own social peer group. The question of the reception of the Jordaanfilms is answered with a qualitative analysis of their reviews. A striking aspect in the reactions to the Jordaan films, and especially DE JANTJES, was the high appreciation of the Dutch language. Even in the areas of the country where the spoken language differed greatly from the Dutch as was spoken in these films, such as Limburg and Friesland, local reviewers were convinced that the spoken Dutch gave the audience the possibility to immerse in the film and to truly understand it. One can conclude from this that the Dutch language was a binding force. The question of the success of the Jordaanfilms was answered with the help of a quantitative analysis of the film program information of 40% of the total number of Dutch cinemas spread through the Netherlands. As there was no box office information available, John Sedgwick’s’ relative popularity measure (POPSTAT, Popularity Statistics) was used to calculate the success of the films. (Simply put: many screenings in big cinemas generate a higher POPSTAT than few screenings in small cinemas.) This proved that Dutch films were very popular amongst Dutch audiences: six of the top ten of most screened films in 1934-1936 were indigenous productions, THE SAILORS being the most popular one. The analysis in this study, combining solid empirical data with more ephemeral cultural and social aspects, gives a multifaceted image which provides an answer to the question how and why these films reached a high level of success in their time. The result of this method in this study of the reception of the Jordaanfilms may be regarded as a proof of the productivity of this combination.


Eef Masson (2010) The Pupil in the Text: Rhetorical Devices in Classroom Teaching Films of the 1940s, 1950s and Early 1960s

ABSTRACT

Since the late 1990s, there has been a marked increase in academic interest in what are sometimes referred to as ‘utility films’: audio-visual texts intended not so much for the entertainment of an audience, but rather to inform it, train it or teach it a specific skill, or to convince it of the merits of a given service or product. This attention is long overdue, because such items form part of the collective memory of several generations of viewers – much like the feature films that have been part of the media studies canon for decades. However, the research carried out so far is somewhat restricted in scope: it primarily concerns the history of production and distribution, and questions concerning pedagogical or entrepreneurial success. Much less attention has been given to the films’ textual features: the means they deploy in defending their informational, educational or commercial argument. In the absence of such studies, the image survives of very ‘formulaic’ genres, which are thought to make use of a very limited number of (highly recognisable) textual ingredients. The purpose of this dissertation is to modify this picture.

The starting point for the research is a collection of (Dutch) classroom teaching films: a corpus of shorts designed to be used in support of the lesson programme of children in primary and early secondary schools. The analytical method employed is based on two conceptual pillars. The first is that films function, and therefore acquire meaning, as part of a wider configuration: the set-up of technology, text and viewing situation that some media theorists designate as a dispositif. In the case of teaching films, the screening is inextricably intertwined with the educational institution in which it takes place; therefore, this set-up is designated here as a ‘pedagogical dispositif’. The second pillar is that of textual implication, derived from the study of literary texts. Analysis in this work is based on the assumption that the rhetorical functioning of films is always a matter of somehow incorporating into the text itself the audience addressed.

The dissertation consists of two parts. The first, introductory section serves the purpose of positioning the study’s research object. It explores the concept of ‘teaching film’, both in a historical sense and in a theoretical one; subsequently, it (re)delimits it, with an eye to the rhetorical analysis that follows. The second part aims to find an answer to the question of how teaching films address their viewers. It starts off with a methodological section, which explains among others how the term ‘rhetoric’ is understood. Next, there are two analytical chapters. The first deals with the ways in which teaching films motivate their viewers to stay tuned (addressing them, in the process, as film viewers), and the second gives examples of so-called ‘references to the pedagogical dispositif’ (textual elements which help position the audience as one of learners, or pupil-viewers). The latter type of features, the dissertation also argues, do not occur in all (the) teaching films (discussed), but tend become more common over time.


Giovanna Fossati (2009) From Grain to Pixel. The Archival Life of Film in Transition


Britta Hartmann (2008) Aller Anfang. Zur Initialphase des Spielfilms


Stephen Bottomore (2007) Filming, faking and propaganda: The origins of the war film, 1897-1902

ABSTRACT

The origins of the war film, 1897-1902 In this thesis I present the first detailed treatment of war and early cinema, describing the representation of conflicts in film from the Greco-Turkish War of 1897 through the Spanish-American War, Boer War, and others up to about 1902. I show that in attempting to cover these events, early filmmakers faced a difficult task, for warfare at the end of the nineteenth century was changing, relying more on defence and concealment and less on highly visible offensives; there was also increasing regulation and censorship of reporting. With the new tactics making battle less visible, and with increasing official controls, how could wars be represented on film? Surprisingly, in just half a decade, filmmakers found ways to cope, by developing new ‘genres’ of films such as acted fakes, and new exhibition strategies, and in these ways managed to present wars to the public of the time fairly effectively.


Bregtje Lameris (2007) Opnieuw belicht: De pas de deux tussen de filmmuseale praktijk en filmhistorische debatten

ABSTRACT

What is the interrelation between film museums and film history writing? This question formed the starting point for this research into the history of film museum practice. Focusing on the history of the Amsterdam Film Museum (1946 – 1996), this study examines the ways in which the history of film museum practice parallels film-historical debates, and how museums participated in the (re)production of film-historical discourse.

The historical practice of film museums can be divided into three main areas of activity: collection, restoration and presentation. Collection is a process of choices, selection and thus of in- and exclusion. In that sense, collection or acquisition is the fundamental activity of the musealisation of film. What has been archived, collected and preserved automatically becomes part of the film museums’ film-historical discourse. Collection practice includes taxonomical practices like categorizing and prioritising, both leading factors in the shaping of a collection. The collecting of films – especially the silent films this research focuses on – often occurred outside of official film-archival institutions like the Film Museum in Amsterdam. In almost every case, silent films reached film museums as part of an already existent collection, brought together by distributors or plain cinephiles. The choices and categories of these first collectors form the starting points of most official archives. In addition to this extra-museological factor, film museums formulated specific collection policies and goals themselves, which largely influenced the shaping of the archives. These policies were often greatly influenced by prevalent film-historical discourses. The last collection shaping activity is the selection of films for preservation and restoration, which entails making films projectable and thus visible again. This is accomplished by making a duplicate of the already present (nitrate) prints. As such, preservation can be conceived as an act of acquisition.

The second aspect of film museum practice that actively shapes discourse is the way films are preserved and restored. Film restoration makes use of the fact that film is a medium that can be reproduced: it makes duplicates, and turns those into new and restored versions. From this perspective, a discussion of film as a material object is a necessity, especially because it has become a more and more prominent issue on film museums’ and film historians’ agendas. Furthermore, there is an interplay between film museums’ activities and film historiography where restoration ethics and aesthetics are concerned. For example, questions on restoration techniques and how to use them are of major interest. By changing colours, grading, shading and other factors of image quality, film images can be made to resemble their ‘original’ state. This means film museums produce historical interpretations of the film image even before film historians see these reproductions. This of course implies an influence of museum practice on film historiography. In the case of the reconstruction of editing structure, the same mechanism applies. However, film-historical debate and opinions on which parameters make a film into an important one – a work of art if you wish – also form an important factor in the shaping of new restoration versions of archival films. By these restoration and preservation activities, film museums shape film-historical discourse.

Finally, it is the film museums’ presentation that makes the collected and restored films visible. Therefore this is a very important last step in the musealisation of film, and in the shaping of film-historical discourse on a film museum level. Screening rooms and their furnishings are of major importance when it comes to the shaping of meaning. Film museums differ from commercial cinema theatres in their shaping of screening spaces and thus of cinema audiences’ expectations and production of meaning. This implies that they are part of the film-historical discourse film museums tend to shape. Also, the way films are combined into programmes is essential in film museums’ shaping of discourse. The main difference between film museum programming and film historiography is that for the latter, the survival of a film is less of an obligation, whereas film museums cannot make programmes without collected films. A final element of film display is its performativity. The way films are musically or otherwise accompanied or not, can make a huge difference in either presenting them as a modern ‘art’ in itself, or as a socio-historical performance art.

This research will give the reader insight into film-historical discourse production within film museum practice and the way this has influenced film historiography or has been influenced by it.


Thunnis van Oort (2007) Film en het moderne leven in Limburg : het bioscoopwezen tussen commercie en katholieke cultuurpolitiek, 1909-1929


Mustafa Özen (2007) De opkomst van het moderne medium cinema in de Ottomaanse hoofdstad Istanbul, 1896-1914

ABSTRACT

The first two decades of cinema in the Ottoman capital of Istanbul, 1896-1914 This study explores the development of cinema in Istanbul, starting from the first public shows in December 1896 till the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. This period marks the transformation of the medium from an entertaining technological novelty to the cinema as a fully recognised and valuable medium which could be applied for various purposes. In the beginning film shows were part of the existing forms of commercial entertainment in Istanbul which in general consisted of western forms of entertainment such as variety, theatre and circus, and of local or traditional forms of entertainment such as puppet theatre, story teller and Ottoman music and dance shows. The film shows were held in various venues such as cafes, coffee houses, theatres, parks, hotel lounges and schools. In this period there was hardly any local film production; almost all the material was imported from Europe. The films were of a very short duration (just a few minutes) and they demonstrated moving images without any linear storyline. The invention itself, the new apparatus cinematograph which could project moving images on a screen, was the main attraction. The shows were frequented by a very diverse public, from children to adults, from Muslims to Christians and Jews, from upper class to working class. From 1908 on, film shows were no longer part of other forms of entertainment. In this year the French firm Pathé introduced the concept of the so-called “Cinémathéâtre” which meant a show of film screenings only. This concept would lead to the emergence of movie theatres as we know them today. The moving pictures became longer and they told linear stories. The medium was not only used as a commercial form of entertainment, but one also began to use moving images in order to propagate certain ideological and political ideas. The attitude of the local authorities towards the new medium was ambiguous. On the one hand they were afraid of the physical and moral dangers of the medium, on the other hand they realised that the new medium could provide financial benefits by means of tax and could be used for their own purposes such as image building for the sultan or influencing the public opinion in times of war or during conflicts. So at the eve of the First World War, the medium was no longer just an amusing technological novelty anymore, but also an influential visual medium which could be used for propagandistic aims.


Rudmer Canjels (2005) Beyond the cliffhanger: distributing silent serials : local practices, changing forms, cultural transformation. Published as Distributing Silent Film Serials. Local Practices, Changing Forms, Cultural Transformation


 

Wolfgang Fuhrmann (2003) Propaganda, sciences, and entertainment : German colonial cinematography : a case study in the history of early nonfiction cinema


 

Nanna Verhoeff (2002) After the Beginning : Westerns Before 1915. Published as The West in Early Cinema. After the Beginning


 

Judith Thissen (2001) Moyshe Goes to the Movies : Jewish Immigrants, Popular Entertainment, and Ethnic Identity in New York City (1880-1914)

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