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Title: Early German Cinema and Dogmatic Jurisprudence
Authors: Kuras, Peter Linscott
Advisors: Levin, Thomas Y
Contributors: German Department
Subjects: Germanic literature
Film studies
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Since the reinvigoration of interest in early cinema in the late 1970s and early 1980s, many scholars have addressed the regulatory apparatus that both restricted and enabled the development of the nascent medium. Work on censorship, on copyright, and on the laws that governed the distribution of the cinema has done much to shape formal, historical, and political claims regarding both the cinema and the medial landscape into and through which it emerged. Despite this now longstanding interest in the regulation of the early cinema, few scholars have sought to understand the theoretical basis of that regulation. Early German Cinema and Dogmatic Jurisprudence attempts to contextualize these readings of the cinema through a historical and formal analysis of the legal and legal-theoretical documents that governed the emergence of the cinema. In so doing, it seeks to understand the cinema as a product of a legal environment that made very specific medial, epistemological, and social claims; it also describes the cinema as an active participant in these debates. The first chapter addresses the surprisingly large and diverse body of work on the early cinema by legal scholars. Rather than reading these texts strictly as evidence of certain repressive tendencies regarding new media in German culture (though they are also certainly that), the chapter attempts to understand the ways in which regulatory decisions regarding earlier technologies forced legal scholars to make media theoretical claims. The second chapter of the dissertation presents a close reading of the 1913 film Der Andere. Long regarded as the first Kulturfilm, Der Andere addresses legal topics explicitly, and the chapter argues, through its alignment of collective authorship with the sovereign command. The third chapter turns to legal and cinematic concepts of fictionality and specificity in the late-Wilhelmine period. By arguing that both the cinema and the law relied on theorizations of the fictional in order to explain the relationship of society to the specific forms of cultural production they represented, the chapter attempts to develop a new means of reading the relationship between media and modes of social control. The final chapter applies the methodology developed in the third chapter through an extended reading of Der Student von Prag (1913). The chapter reads the Doppelgänger that motivates the film's plot as a division between the legal person, as given medial form by regulation, contracts, and film, and the aspects of psychological interiority unable to be represented by any given media. In so doing, it reveals the film as a meditation on both the power and the inadequacy of cinematic representation.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:German

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