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Reading List

Film and Media: Verso Student Reading

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Theaters have been closed for most of the past year, but you can still read radical takes on the wide world of film and media. Start with this list which includes a film-by-film assessment of Pedro Almodóvar's work, Annette Kuhn's exploration of feminist alternative cinema, Pang Laikwan's examination of how artists and thinkers found autonomy in a culture of conformity under Mao, and Paul Virilio's consideration of perception and destruction in the parallel technologies of warfare and cinema.

All our student reading is 40% off as part of our Back to University/School sale. Ends September 30, 23:59 EST. See all our student reading lists here.

In The Social Photo, social theorist Nathan Jurgenson develops bold new ways of understanding the transformations wrought by image-making and sharing technologies and the cultural objects they have ushered in: the selfie, the faux-vintage photo, the self-destructing image, the food photo. Jurgenson shows how these devices and platforms have remade the world and our understanding of ourselves within it.

Cinema, like language, can be said to exist as a system of differences. In Intervals of Cinema, acclaimed philosopher Jacques Rancière looks at cinematic art in comparison to its corollary forms in literature and theatre. From literature, he argues, cinema takes its narrative conventions, while at the same time effacing literature’s images and philosophy; and film rejects theatre, while also fulfilling theatre’s dream.

An award-winning cultural history of how we experience the world through art, film and architecture.

A brilliantly original exploration of the interface between feminism, psychoanalysis, semiotics and film theory 

Desire Unlimited is the classic film-by-film assessment of Almodóvar's oeuvre, now updated to include his most recent work. Still the only study of its kind in English, it vigorously confirms its original argument that beneath Almodóvar's genius for comedy and visual pleasure lies a filmmaker whose work deserves to be taken with the utmost seriousness.

In this volume Régis Debray sums up over a decade of his research and writing on the evolution of subjects of communication and the technologically transmitted interventions of the modern intelligentsia in France. Media Manifestos announces the battle-readiness of a new sub-discipline of the sciences humaines: “medialogy.” Scion of that semiology of the sixties linked with the names of Roland Barthes and Umberto Eco—and affiliated trans-Atlantically to the semiotics of C.S. Pierce and media analyses of Marshall McLuhan (“media is message”)—“mediology” is in dialectical revolt against its parent thought-system. Determined not to lapse back into the uncritical empiricism and psychologism with which semiology broke, mediology is just as resolved to dispel the cult or illusion of the signifier as the be-all-and-end-all, slough off the scholasticism of the code, and recover the world—in all its mediatized materiality. In this enterprise its ally is the work of French historians of mentalités, of the hard and evolutionary sciences, and of the technologies of transmission (from stylus and clay to quill and parchment to press and paper to mouse and screen).

From colonial newspapers to the Internet age, America’s racial divisions have played a central role in the creation of the country’s media system, just as the media has contributed to—and every so often, combated—racial oppression. This acclaimed book—called a “masterpiece” by the esteemed scholar Robert W. McChesney and chosen as one of 2011's best books by the Progressive—reveals how racial segregation distorted the information Americans have received, even as it depicts the struggle of Black, Latino, Asian, and Native American journalists who fought to create a vibrant yet little-known alternative, democratic press.

In The Art of Cloning, Pang Laikwan examines the period in Chinese history when ordinary citizens read widely, traveled extensively through the country, and engaged in a range of cultural and artistic activities. The freedom they experienced, argues Pang, differs from the freedom, under Western capitalism, to express individuality through a range of consumer products. But it was far from boring and was possessed of its own kind of diversity.

In The Future of the Image, Jacques Rancière develops a fascinating new concept of the image in contemporary art, showing how art and politics have always been intrinsically intertwined. Covering a range of art movements, filmmakers such as Godard and Bresson, and thinkers such as Foucault, Deleuze, Adorno, Barthes, Lyotard and Greenberg, Rancière shows that contemporary theorists of the image are suffering from religious tendencies.

Ten years after the publication of The Business of Books, his groundbreaking critique of conglomeration in the book industry, André Schiffrin turns his attention to the broader crisis in the media. Just as corporatization and the lowest-common-denominator pursuit of the bottom line have had a parlous effect on publishing, media consolidation has contributed to the ongoing demise of serious journalism in newspapers, magazines, serious broadcast news, and online journalism. Schiffrin compares the media crisis in the United States to the situation in Europe and across the globe, and he demonstrates how the American corporate model has extended its reach. But he also describes and considers a range of alternative policies culled from many countries that, if pursued, could help to save journalism and the media in the US. This is a superlative essay that will make everyone seriously interested in the media and publishing think again.

War and Cinema is a rich and suggestive analysis of military “ways of seeing”, revealing the convergence of perception and destruction in the parallel technologies of warfare and cinema.

This pioneering and influential work of feminist theory proposes that feminism and cinema, taken together, could provide the basis for new forms of expression, providing the opportunity for a truly feminist alternative cinema in terms of film language, of reading that language and of representing the world. The films used as points of discussion are drawn from both mainstream and alternative cinema, institutions which are themselves examined in relation to their production, distribution and exhibition practices.

The BBC is one of the most important institutions in Britain; it is also one of the most misunderstood. Despite its claim to be independent and impartial, and the constant accusations of a liberal bias, the BBC has always sided with the elite. As Tom Mills demonstrates, we are only getting the news that the Establishment wants aired in public.

From plasma screens to smartphones, today moving images are everywhere. How have films adapted to this new environment? And how has the experience of the spectator changed because of this proliferation? In Broad Daylight investigates one of the decisive shifts in the history of Western aesthetics, exploring the metamorphosis of films in the age of individual media, when the public is increasingly free but also increasingly resistant to the emotive force of the pictures flashing around us. Moving deftly from philosophy of mind to film theory, from architectural practice to ethics, from Leon Battista Alberti to Orson Welles, Gabriele Pedullà examines the revolution that is reshaping the entire system of the arts and creativity in all its manifestations.

Until the political ferment of the Long Sixties, there were no Asian Americans. There were only isolated communities of mostly Chinese, Japanese, and Filipinos lumped together as “Orientals.” Serve the People tells the story of the social and cultural movement that knit these disparate communities into a political identity, the history of how—and why—the double consciousness of Asian America came to be.

Bernie Sanders shocked the political establishment by winning 13 million votes and a majority of young voters in the 2016 Democratic primary. Since that upset, repeated polls have judged this democratic socialist to be the most popular politician in the United States. What lessons can be drawn from his surprising insurgent campaign?

Gautney’s poignant account of the role that race and class played in this election cycle, her anatomy of the conflicting dynamics of movement and electoral ambitions, and her clear-eyed analysis of the Democratic position following Trump’s victory will serve as a useful starting point for many readers newly aware of the limitations of the Democratic Party and the immensity of the challenges ahead.