Polygraph 30 "Cinema / Image / History"

deadline for submissions: 
September 1, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Polygraph Journal
contact email: 

Call for Papers

Polygraph 30 “Cinema / Image / History”

“Previously, images were in the world,” writes Nicole Brenez: “Today, it is the world that is swimming in an ocean of images.” Not only those on our cellphones, television, or computer screens, but also an ecology of images that we do not see, that we are not meant to see, but that record, predict, and surveil daily life, and that often render such life unbearable. Following Brenez’s claim that above all cinema remains a site in which the image-world of late capitalism is contested from within the regime of the visible, Polygraph’s 30th issue seeks to ask anew a question central to the early promises of cinema and the tradition of political modernism: what is the critical function of cinema in a world organized, reified, and permeated by visual forms? How can cinema paradoxically be said, following Alexander Kluge, to move the world toward fewer images? In particular, this issue invites papers that maintain and interrogate the various ways cinematographic images have and continue to provide a sense of the movement of history, of a future yet to come, rather than contribute to a sense of an eternal present, or what Fredric Jameson has called “the waning of our historicity, of our lived possibility of experiencing history in some active way.”

For this milestone issue, we invite papers that consider the future of cinema, as well as papers that consider the traditions in which the cinematographic image was theorized as an aesthetic element of historical thought. The critical dimension of art’s promise, according to Theodor Adorno, is that it is a “cipher of the not-yet-existing, the possible,” the means for making a future conceivable against the present. How does cinema provide such a cipher of history? How does cinema present what Georges Didi-Huberman has recently called “the eye of history,” as a uniquely arranged form of the image that “gives us access to historicity”? Numerous scholars and filmmakers have responded to these questions by excavating and displaying images that counter the de-historicizing and exploitative logics of our modern and postmodern imaginaries: the films of Wang Bing, Harun Farocki, Straub-Huillet, and Sarah Moldoror; the writings of Siegfried Kracauer, Peter Wollen, Elena Gorfinkel, and Sara Saljoughi. This call invites papers not necessarily on the history of images, but on those moments when the image touches history, discloses it as constellation, configuration, or fragment; papers that critique the image for its reification of life and of history; papers that outline the image’s capacity to curtail historicity, introducing anachronism into the temporal ordering of events; and papers that trace out images congregating against the archive, below that which has been relegated to the realm of history: minor, ignored, or underseen images.

Possible topics may include:

  • Cinematographic Forms of History / Historiophoty / Historical Imaginaries / Historical Perception

  • The Historical Promises of Cinema / The Deaths of Cinema

  • The Dialectical Imagination / Dialectical Images / The Visualizability of Historical Materialism

  • Feminist Historiography / Historicity of Gender, Sexuality, and Desire / Cultural Memory

  • Anticipatory Images / Anachronism / Utopia / The “Temptation of the Visual” (Jameson)

  • Envisioning Capital / Counter-Logistical Imaging / Landscape Cinema

  • Visual Form and Revolutionary Periods / Iconoclasm / Negativity and the Visual

  • Lost Histories / The Archive and its Discontents

  • Documentary Thought and Documentary Thinking

  • The Function of Images in Anti-Coloniality / The Visualization of Empire

  • Cinematic Visuality, Environmental History and the Anthropocene

Abstracts between 300 and 500 words are due by September 1, 2023 to polygraphduke@gmail.com. Upon acceptance, full papers due February 2024. Include your name, affiliation, and contact information. Please send other inquiries to the editors via the following email addresses: aaron.dowdy@duke.eduor john.g.winn@duke.edu.

Polygraph is an annual interdisciplinary journal affiliated with the Literature Program at Duke University. It is edited and produced by a collective of humanities graduate students. Visit our website at https://polygraphjournal.com