In the fall of 2010, the Permanent Seminar on History of Film Theories helped to sponsor a conference entitled Sergei Eisenstein’s Unpublished “Notes for a General History of Cinema”. This event was held September 30 – October 2, 2010, at Columbia University, New York, NY .
The conference served as a platform for the critical reception to Eisenstein’s late writings by contemporary scholars in the field. “Notes for a General History of Cinema,” written by Eisenstein in 1947-48 while he was organizing a Section of Film Theory and History at the Institute of Art of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, present us with a map of all the topics Eisenstein would have liked to discuss in a volume dedicated to the history and pre-history of cinema, a volume he planned but never wrote due to his death in 1948.
What is surprising in these notes – structured like a long index – is the quantity and the variety of extra- and pre-cinematographic references (literature, music, architecture, photography, painting, theater, puppet theater, but also Western and non-Western popular feasts and traditions, religious rites and processions, moving from ‘high’ art to popular forms of entertainment such as wax museums, circus, etc.): a compound of some of the references Eisenstein had already discussed in his previous published and unpublished texts (“Montage” of 1937, “Nonindifferent Nature” of 1945-47, “Method” of 1932-48), with a new, strong emphasis on pre-cinematographic media (Panorama, Diorama, stereoscopic photography, cronophotography, aerial photography, travelogues) as well as on the relationships with the avant-gardes (photomontages of Berlin dadaists, photograms of Man Ray and Moholy-Nagy…).
Read within the context of the rest of his theoretical oeuvre, these “Notes” offer us a further insight into his ideas on the relationships between cinema and the other arts/media, his anthropologically rooted aesthetics, and his use of montage as a hermeneutic and historiographic tool. The bulk of the unpublished manuscript comes from RGALI, the State Archive, but there are some sheets added from the Eisenstein Kabinett.
Sponsors: Columbia University Seminar on Cinema & Interdisciplinary Interpretation
The Harriman Institute – Russian, Eurasian and Eastern European Studies
Film Program, School of the Arts, Columbia University
Permanent Seminar on Histories of Film Theories, Museo del cinema di Torino, Turin, Italy: http://museonazionaledelcinema.it/filmtheories
Prof. Jane Gaines (Columbia University)
Prof. Francesco Casetti (Yale University)
Asst. Prof. Nico Baumbauch (Columbia University)
Luka Arsenjuk (Jr. Fellow, Internat. Research Center/ Cultural Studies, Vienna)