Globalization, Utopia, Film (ACLA March 31-April 3, 2011)

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This seminar considers the production of narrative in post 1950 cinema as it relates to aesthetically and politically charged questions of globalization and the desires for Utopia. To situate ourselves between these two categories is to take our cue in part from Fredric Jameson's assertion in "Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture" (1979) that "[A]ll contemporary works of art–whether those of high culture and modernism or of mass culture and commercial culture–have as their underlying impulse…our deeper fantasies about the nature of social life, both as we live it now, and as we feel in our bones it ought rather to be lived." At issue here is not simply the identification of Utopian tendencies in filmic works that diagnose the state of contemporary capitalism but also the question of how Utopias and theories of global capitalism interact to generate new narrative forms. If contemporary Utopian discourse represents the political obverse of globalized capitalism, could these two categories still somehow imply each other in filmic narratives dealing with globalization or the production of alternative life-worlds? Does Utopia's persistence in filmic narrative offer support for Jameson's claim in Valences of the Dialectic (2009) that "the worldwide triumph of capitalism…secures the priority of Marxism as the ultimate horizon of thought in our time"? Where, if anywhere, might the mutual imbrication between Utopia and globalization meet its limits? How might theories of "World Cinema" or investigations of cinematic genres such as noir and science fiction further interrogate this curious co-dependency?

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