Cinema Studies Colloquium, Oliver Gaycken

Wednesday, September 22, 2010 - 12:00pm

Oliver Gaycken (English, Temple University)

The Circulation of Cinematic Facts: From Edison’s Classroom Films to Ralph Steiner’s Mechanical Principles

In the early 1910s Thomas Edison initiated an ambitious project to create films for classroom use. This talk will introduce and contextualize some aspects of Edison’s educational film project, paying particular attention to the strategies of visualization found in the films that illustrated physical and mechanical principles. These films relied on both pre-existing demonstration culture or textbook illustrations, drawn from, for example, Ganot’s Physics or Millikan’s and Gale’s Practical Physics. I will juxtapose this sequence with Mechanical Principles (Ralph Steiner, 1933), which was inspired by an exhibition at the Science Museum in New York City. An isomorphism obtains between these two films; both are interested in educating the eye. And whereas the more overt didacticism of the Edison film is replaced by a modernist lesson in Mechanical Principles about vision reinvigorated by cinema, a gaze taught to see the unappreciated everyday world of objects, together the two films provide an object lesson in the circulation of filmic facts.

Cinema Studies Program
209A Fisher-Bennett Hall ⋅ 3340 Walnut Street ⋅ Philadelphia, PA 19104 ⋅ (215) 898-8782