Media Screen Round-up, August – September 2016Published: 12 October 2016
The monthly round-up of film and television publications compiled by Simon Baker, Institute of Historical Research and published at Learning on Screen by Andrew Ormsby.
This month’s selection features two books which consider the rich but still largely unexplored history of scientific filmmaking.
Scott Curtis’ The Shape of Spectatorship: Art, Science, and Early Cinema in Germany (New York: Columbia University Press, 2015) examines the use of motion picture technology in scientific, educational and medical films in Germany between 1890 and 1918, suggesting that the pioneers who made these films have had a far-reaching influence on film spectatorship.
In Devices of Curiosity: Early Cinema and Popular Science, (Oxford University Press, 2015), Oliver Gaycken looks at the early history of the popular science film, tracing the genre’s development from its beginnings in 1903 to its flourishing in France in 1910. Gaycken considers how the genre, initially influenced by Magic Lantern shows, quickly developed its own visual idioms and paradigms which had an influence on the formation of the documentary, educational, and avant-garde cinemas.
Jesse Olszynko-Gryn considers both these books in ‘Film Lessons: Early Cinema for Historians of Science’ published in The British Journal for the History of Science 49, no. 2 (2016). Olszynko-Gryn reviews Curtis’s and Gaycken’s books as important examples of research being done in the field of ‘science and cinema’, which, despite much excellent scholarly work in recent years, remains a largely unexplored field, particularly with regard to the technologies and equipment involved.
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