Colloquium | John David Rhodes

Wednesday, January 30, 2019 - 12:00pm


John David Rhodes

The Prop and its Properties

The prop names a category of ubiquity: props are everywhere in cinema. The term, short for property, is defined by the Oxford English Dictionaryas “any portable object (now usually other than an article of costume) used in a play, film, etc., as required by the action.” The straightforwardness of this definition, however, belies the strangeness of the prop. The prop begs questions of scale, ambience, contingency, commodification, objecthood, and narration. In the context of narrative cinema, props seem as necessary as actors, sets, and locations. Regarding cinema through the lens of the prop—which is the lens of property—helps us to see how an ontological instrumentality courses through the very nature of the cinematic medium. This talk, which will veer from theory to history to questions of close reading, emerges from my recent book on domestic architecture and cinema, The Spectacle of Property: The House in American Film (2017). In the talk I hope to show how foregrounding cinema’s prop-ness summons into view some of the medium’s most curious and most unsettling features.

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