Thursday, October 14, 2021

15.30–17.30 (HS 4, GEIWI)


Tom Gunning, University of Chicago


I intend to deal with three films, Victor Sjostrom’s The Outlaw and his Wife (1917), Raoul Walsh’s High Sierra (1940) and Andre De Toth’s The Day of the Outlaw (1959), all of which deal with characters who use mountains as a way to live outside the Law. The mythical nature of mountains and their relation to space and time (both altitude and climate) intertwine with plots that deal with both passion and  contradictions of social control.

more on Tom Gunning 

Tom Gunning works on problems of film style and interpretation, film history and film culture. His published work (approximately one hundred publications) has concentrated on early cinema (from its origins to WW I) as well as on the culture of modernity from which cinema arose (relating it to still photography, stage melodrama, magic lantern shows, as well as wider cultural concerns such as the tracking of criminals, the World Expositions, and Spiritualism). His concept of the “cinema of attractions” has tried to relate the development of cinema to other forces than storytelling, such as new experiences of space and time in modernity, and an emerging modern visual culture. His book D.W. Griffith and the Origins of American Narrative Film traces the ways film style interacted with new economic structures in the early American film industry and with new tasks of storytelling. His forthcoming book on Fritz Lang deals with the systematic nature of the director's oeuvre and the processes of interpretation. He has written on the Avant-Garde film, both in its European pre-World War I manifestations and the American Avant-Garde film up to the present day. He has also written on genre in Hollywood cinema and on the relation between cinema and technology. The issues of film culture, the historical factors of exhibition and criticism and spectator's experience throughout film history are recurrent themes in his work.


Friday, October 15, 2021

16.00–17.30 (HS 4, GEIWI)


Jennifer Fay, Vanderbilt University


One of the more perverse turns in America’s nuclear program was a proposal to use nuclear explosions not to bomb enemy populations, but to target the earth itself as the obstacle to human flourishing. “Plowshare” (1958-1973), championed by Edward Teller, would renovate the planet using nuclear explosions for “geographical engineering,” such as instant harbors, cross-continental canals, redirected rivers, and mountain passes large enough to accommodate a super-highway-- all created at a fraction of the time and cost of conventional methods. When asked to clarify the scope of the program, Teller famously quipped: “If your mountain is not in the right place, drop us a card.” Mountains, in Teller’s engineering fantasy, were just another feature of our “slightly flawed” planet. Cinema promulgated the Plowshare program, which was never implemented beyond the test-site. Films made by the Atomic Energy Commission envision all topography as useable spaces; the once-sublime images of natural inaccessibility are turned into logistical problems that nuclear explosions could solve. Cinema framed non-auratic “nature” as the stuff that gets in the way.   

This talk explores a post-World War II aesthetic sensibility epitomized by the Plowshare nuclear program and its cinematic promotion in a period that accelerated the processes we associate with the Anthropocene. What are the aesthetic features of a slight flaw, especially when it comes to mountains on film?  Drawing on Marjorie Hope Nicholson’s 1959 book Mountain Gloom and Mountain Glory and the more recent study Wasteland: A History by Vittoria De Palma, I consider how mountains fit into a new operational and aesthetic regime: from the theological category of seventeenth century evil, to the Romantic aesthetics of the sublime, mountains, by mid-century, are subsumed into the banality of inconvenience and subjected to the flattening ontology of cinema. 

more on Jennifer Fay   

Jennifer Fay is Professor of Film and English at Vanderbilt University, where she is also Chair of the Cinema & Media Arts Department. She is the author of Theaters of Occupation: Hollywood and the Re-education of Postwar Germany (2008), Inhospitable World: Cinema in the Time of the Anthropocene (2018), and co-author of Film Noir: Hard-Boiled Modernity and the Cultures of Globalization.


Saturday, October 16, 2021

14.30–16.00 (Seegrube)


Alexa Weik von Mossner, University of Klagenfurt



Mountain ecologies are among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. In her talk, Weik von Mossner will consider two documentaries that narrate the changing climate through the lens of disappearing glaciers, Jeff Orlowski’s Chasing Ice (USA 2012) and Hannes Lang’s Peak (Germany & Italy 2011). Both films aim to make climate change visceral for viewers, but their visual and narrative strategies could hardly be more different. Chasing Ice follows National Geographic photographer James Balog on his personal quest to capture the disappearance of the Artic glaciers in spectacular images and racing time-lapse photography. Peak also includes stunning shots of artificial snow weaving through barren mountain landscapes, but it is a quiet and contemplative film that explores the emotional and material effects of the changing climate on the local population in the Alps. Where Orlowski speeds things up to raise alarm, Lang does the opposite, slowing the pace literally to a standstill and arresting the viewer’s gaze on the faces of individual people and their relationship to the mountains through culture, labor, and leisure. Drawing on the results of an empirical reception study, Weik von Mossner discusses the effects of these strategies on audiences in Austria and Germany, drawing conclusions about their narrative impact.

more on Alexa Weik von Mossner 

Alexa Weik von Mossner is Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Klagenfurt. After working for several years in the German film and television industry as production manager and later scriptwriter, she received her PhD at the University of California, San Diego, and her Habilitation at the University of Klagenfurt. Her research explores the theoretical and empirical intersections of cognitive psychology, affective narratology, and environmental literature and film. She is the author of Cosmopolitan Minds: Literature, Emotion, and the Transnational Imagination (U of Texas P, 2014) and Affective Ecologies: Empathy, Emotion, and Environmental Narrative (Ohio State UP, 2017), and the editor of Moving Environments: Affect, Emotion, Ecology, and Film (Wilfrid Laurier UP, 2014). She has been a fellow at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society in Munich, where she curated the Green Visions documentary film series from 2011-2014. She is currently a researcher on the project “Cinema and Environment: Affective Ecologies in the Anthropocene,” and a contributor to a new interdisciplinary research field in the environmental humanities, empirical ecocriticism.

Nach oben scrollen