I've always hoped that my Critical Cinema books might be useful for undergraduates as introductory texts. They do not pretend to provide anything like a "complete" history, but these volumes can provide a sense of the world of avant-garde cinema and the thinking of (some of) the filmmakers who have energized this particular world of cinema.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: [Frameworks] textbook recommendation
From: Jonathan Walley <>
Date: Sat, May 11, 2013 7:13 am
To: Experimental Film Discussion List <>

Dear Joan (and Frameworkers),

I hope people respond on-list, as this is a perennial problem for anyone teaching undergraduate courses on avant-garde cinema. To my knowledge, there is not a good general history of AGF, much less one accessible to students with little or no background in the subject (or related subjects like art history). Indeed, I can't think of any book that purports to offer such a history - the closest I can think of is A.L. Rees's A HISTORY OF EXPERIMENTAL FILM AND VIDEO, which, while fascinating, is a little advanced for uninitiated readers, and leaves off in the 1970s before going on to focus specifically on British practice. Despite its title, it's a little scattershot historically (which I say as an admirer of the book and of Rees's work generally).

Any other text that comes to mind is focused on specific periods, nations, filmmakers, or themes. For this reason, I've always cobbled together my reading lists for such classes in the same way you're doing - journal essays, book chapters, artist interviews, online stuff, etc.

This is "the history we need," as they say; I've always wondered why there isn't such a book. And I've thought about writing one. Perhaps it seems like too pragmatic, or too simplistic, an endeavor for avant-garde-y folks, or perhaps it's the fear of backlash against such a project, which would necessarily oversimplify, leave out worthy filmmakers, suffer from blind spots, etc. Maybe the controversy over VISIONARY FILM, and the related "Essential Cinema" canon, has made subsequent scholars wary of taking on a synthetic, general historical account of the subject.

I have only skimmed it, but Michael O'Pray's AVANT-GARDE FILM: FORMS, THEMES, AND PASSIONS is probably worth looking at.

Anyway, probably not a terribly helpful response, but confirmation that there are others out there who have the same problem. So I do hope others on this list will chime in publicly.


On Fri, May 10, 2013 at 9:24 AM, Joan Hawkins <> wrote:
Dear Frameworkers,I'll be teaching a History of the American Avant-garde class in the fall (there'll be 2 weeks of early cinema and then we'll move quickly into the 1942-present period) -- and I would like to have a good history to use as the basic text,  to be supplemented with journal essays, artist's essays etc. Is there a text you'd recommend, preferably one that 
discusses some of the major critical responses to the films as well as the films themselves?

The class will be offered to juniors and seniors, with very little experimental film background or experience.  There will be a production for component for students who sign up for it (so students can take the history course alone or take an experimental production course in conjunction with my crit/hist class).   Feel free to respond to me offlist.
Many thanks, Joan

Joan Hawkins
Associate Professor 
Indiana University
Dept of Communication and Culture
800 E. Third St
Bloomington, IN 47405

office phone 812-855-1548

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Jonathan Walley
Associate Professor
Department of Cinema
Denison University

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