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Cinema and Multilingualism
Editors: Tijana Mamula (John Cabot University) and Lisa Patti (Hobart and William Smith Colleges)
The collection Cinema and Multilingualism takes its cue from two independent, but interrelated, ideas. Firstly, that the importance of linguistic difference and change in contemporary history has been vastly undervalued: an individual’s migration into a non-native linguistic environment, like the collective confrontation with foreign languages through the forces of immigration, urbanization and media globalization, bears a series of social, political, psychological and even ethical implications whose relevance to contemporary culture and society deserves a much closer look than it has so far inspired. Secondly, that transnationality and multilingualism are not recent phenomena whose impact on cinema has only just begun to be felt, but that cinema has been globalized and transnational from its very origins, and language and linguistic difference have shaped its history much more broadly than is generally acknowledged.
Although recent scholarship in film studies has begun to reevaluate the profound impact of displacement on film production and consumption – contributing to a paradigm shift that radically problematizes the concept of national cinemas, and to the establishment of the transnational as an interdisciplinary discourse – the question of language has so far occupied a marginal position. At the same time, the few recent studies that address multilingualism and linguistic difference have been largely focused on matters of translation and the representation of migrant languages and identities – as, for example, in the various reflections on dubbing and subtitling practices and the analyses of what have come to be known as “polyglot films.”
Necessarily inspired by, but also moving beyond these studies, Cinema and Multilingualism is driven by the reflection that even a cursory glance at the history of film – that is, the history of its production, distribution, reception and theorization – reveals countless indications of the centrality of multilingualism in filmmaking practices. This is evident not only in the international co-productions that have always been a staple of the industry – a point that has begun to be examined – but also in the very birth of cinema, and of photography before it, in close correspondence with the consolidation of disciplines such as geography and anthropology, and the expansion of tourism. It is further evident in the medium’s popularity with (and popularization through) urban immigrant communities at the turn of the twentieth century; in the well-known fact that Hollywood itself was built in good part by immigrants, and classical Hollywood narrative and style consolidated through the work of countless displaced practitioners; and in the widespread influence of genres such as film noir, and national (but trans-regional and pluri-dialectic) cinema contexts such as that of postwar Italy, without which the medium’s history would hardly be the same. These indicators of multilingualism’s place in cinema have yet to be adequately addressed. At the same time, the further escalation of migration and globalization (and therefore multilingualism) in recent times, and its increasing relevance to areas of the world previously either untouched by such demographic and cultural shifts or without the means to confront them cinematically, is equally in need of scholarly attention.
The essays so far collected in Cinema and Multilingualism move through innovative historical debates (e.g. the impact of multilingualism on pre-cinema aesthetics); hitherto unexplored geographical areas (e.g. the minority-language films of North East India); emergent sociopolitical paradoxes (e.g. the negotiation of linguistic difference in recent European remakes of other European films); and fresh re-examinations of postcolonial discourse. The volume seeks to expand on these existing concerns with essays on the place of multilingualism in the development and dissemination of film theory (both past and current), as well as its impact on contexts such as avant-garde and silent cinema, and on the distribution, exhibition and teaching of multilingual films. It also welcomes essays that adopt a comparative and interdisciplinary approach to the study of multilingualism, particularly regarding the relationship between cinema and the other arts.
The volume Cinema and Multilingualism stands not only to provide a necessary contribution to the growing area of film studies broadly referred to as “transnational cinema,” and to re-evaluate – and re-invigorate – the question of cinema’s relation to language more generally, but also to stimulate further research into the place of multilingualism in the social and cultural history of the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
Abstracts of 300-500 words should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com by 1 December 2013, with a brief biographical statement. Accepted articles of 5,000-8,000 words, including notes and bibliography, should be sent to the editors by 1 June 2014. Topics may include (but are not restricted to) the following:
- historical shifts in multilingualism and its cinematic expression (particularly the confrontations associated with moments of emerging urban and/or cosmopolitan scenes of multilingualism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries)
- the place of multilingualism in areas of filmmaking generally excluded from research into this topic, particularly early and silent film, experimental/avant-garde cinema and video art
- canonical or "hegemonic" filmmakers usually excluded from the discourses of transnational and migrant cinemas (e.g. Luis Buñuel, Andrej Tarkovsky, Raùl Ruiz, Straub and Huillet, Claire Denis)
- linguistic concerns in the work of classical and modern film theorists working outside the context of their native language (e.g. Béla Balász, Sergej Eisenstein, Siegfried Kracauer)
- the stylistic indices of multilingualism, both within the work of single individuals or across entire modes, genres or movements
- cognitive approaches to the impact of multilingualism on film spectatorship
- the relationship between language and visuality, particularly as it pertains to film theory
- the impact of translation and mis-translation on the dissemination of film theory (e.g. Bazin in Anglophone academia)
- interrelations between cinema and modernist literature, particularly with regard to the traces of multilingualism in the latter’s development
- multilingualism and pre-cinema aesthetics
- pedadogical approaches to cinema and multilingualism, in both monolingual and multilingual teaching contexts
- multilingualism and screenwriting
- multilingualism within distribution or exhibition practices
- the circulation and transformation of multilingual cinema via new media
- the reception of multilingual cinema within local, national, and transnational frameworks
- multilingual stardom
- forms or practices of multilingualism in any period of film/media history and any aspect of film theory