Things of Love and the Love of Things (11/1/09; 11/11-14/10)

full name / name of organization: 
Cynthia Miller/Film & History
contact email: 

Call for Papers
AREA: "Things of Love and the Love of Things"
2010 Film and History Conference: Representations of Love in Film and Television
November 10-14, 2010
Hyatt Regency Milwaukee
Second Round Deadline: November 1, 2009

As Siegfried Kracauer noted in his Theory of Film, "a long procession of unforgettable objects has passed across the screen – objects which stand out as protagonists and all but overshadow the rest of the cast." Film, as scholars have often pointed out, has a unique capacity to invest inanimate objects with a significance that far exceeds their quotidian value. The expressive potential opened up by the medium's careful treatment of "things" is perhaps nowhere more apparent than in the cinematic exploration of love, and of love's varied associations with desire, elation, obsession, and loss. The fact that film mobilizes the tangible and concrete in its engagement with such an abstract, often enigmatic human emotion speaks to an important affinity between medium and material object that this area seeks to examine. How can things so powerfully convey the facets of love that dialogue, action, and genre conventions cannot articulate? How has film used objects to portray the realities and myths of love, as well as to contradict our expectations of it? What are the stakes involved in transferring such expressive weight to things, creating obsession, and perhaps, fetish? How are the answers to these questions influenced by historical and cultural context?

This area, comprising multiple panels, welcomes papers examining the intersection of love and objects in individual films, or within specific genres or historical periods; it also invites projects that discuss the role of a single object in various cinematic contexts. Topics may include, but are not limited to the following:

• Things that play an important narrative role or that serve as material symbols of love within the diegesis, like the camellias in Now, Voyager and Reese's Pieces in E.T.
• Things that exist on the periphery of the frame or the plot, acting as an extra-narrative extension of (or commentary on) the primary expression of love in the film, such as Ginnie Moorehead's stuffed animal handbag in Some Came Running
• Things that demonstrate a love of commodities that competes or becomes conflated with interpersonal love, such as Lorelei Lee's love of diamonds in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, the love of designer clothing in Sex and the City, the obsession with the Monet painting in The Thomas Crown Affair
• The anthropomorphization or fetishization of inanimate objects that helps to support (or foil) narrative representations of love, like the ballet slippers in The Red Shoes
• Things that elicit spectatorial pleasure from the audience, and how this might impact diegetic efforts toward depicting love. For example, instances of obvious product placement , or the dazzling display of fashion (such as Eve Kendall's dresses in North by Northwest), cars (such as in Gone in 60 Seconds), and domestic appliances (like in Lucy and Desi's Long, Long Trailer) that gratify society's love of commodities.

Please send 200 word proposals and any questions via email to:

Rebecca Burditt
University of Rochester
Program in Visual and Cultural Studies
424 Morey Hall
Rochester, NY 14627