CFP: The Actor's Archive: Problems and Promises (SCMS 2010 Panel) - August 1 Deadline

full name / name of organization: 
Anne Helen Petersen, R. Colin Tait/The University of Texas-Austin

CFP: The Actor's Archive: Problems and Promises (SCMS, March 2010)

Following SCMS' 50 year anniversary and conference theme of "Archiving the Future/Mobilizing the Past," the panel "The Actor's Archive" will explore the ways in which scholars attempt to reconstruct, challenge, and elucidate the histories of film, television, and star production with the help of primary research materials. As media studies turns to the marvels of digitization and new media, many scholars still rely heavily on the boxes of dusty scripts, mimeographed letters, and angry telegrams to expand our basic understanding of the Hollywood star. As the volume of these collections increases exponentially, dwarfing the potential labor of researchers, the breadth and depth of these collections begin to intimidate. Who can know the research keys these documents continue to hold, or, for that matter, whether they will ever be found seen at all?

This panel will look to recent discoveries and challenges inherent to the actor's archive: how do primary documents found therein challenge conceptions of authorship, performance, star production and reception? How can an actor's archive add to -- and distract from -- the research process? What are the ethical dimensions of the archive: how does the scholar deal with illegible handwriting, innuendo, phone numbers, and undated materials? How does one integrate the actor's archive with other textual approaches? Finally, how do new and ongoing acquisitions from contemporary actors' papers problematize our knowledge of film history as a static, stable object?

The actor's archive opens up questions of authorship, collaboration, and performance, expanding our understanding of the craft of acting and performance while underlining the dynamic shifts in the power wielded by A-list actors during the production process. Actor's archives thus provide an alternative narrative to our increasingly director-centric view of film authorship. The significant acquisition of major actor's papers, including those of Gloria Swanson, Cary Grant, Marion Davies, Kirk Douglas, Joan Crawford, Steve McQueen, and Robert De Niro provide a productive avenue for scholars to "mobilize the past," opening up new, vital directions in star and authorship studies while transcending mere biographical and analytic frameworks.

We seek submissions that grapple with, comment on, or present new directions in the actor's archive. Please send 250-word abstracts and a brief C.V. to Anne Helen Petersen ( and R. Colin Tait ( by August 1, 2009.