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October 2012, Week 5


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Warren Buckland <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 29 Oct 2012 10:12:57 +0000
text/plain (215 lines)
Jason –

you are defending the indefensible. I have already addressed most of your
points in my Review Essay and Response. I’ll briefly reply to your email
here. The following comments are 'solipsistic film criticism for those who
don't have the time' (with apologies to Michael Snow):

Clayton confuses impressionistic film criticism and formal analysis. He and
Klevan warn readers to avoid this confusion in their Introduction. But then
Clayton commits the error in his contribution to the volume.

Clayton and Klevan (C&K) write that their book is about methods of
analysis. Most contributors provide methods. In his chapter on description,
Klevan does not. I then presented a method for analysing descriptive
passages, drawing on the work of Meir Sternberg, Monroe Beardsley, and
Edward Branigan. It is through their work that we can understand the subtle
linguistic and rhetorical nuances in descriptive passages of writing.
Simply repeating and italicising words, as Klevan does in his chapter, is

The way C&K promote their particular type of film criticism (not
necessarily of all their contributors) is introspective and solipsistic.
(In my Response, I then backed this up with a number of quotations from
C&K's Introduction.)

If you want to talk about gross caricatures, just look at C&K’s account of
textual analysis in their book and of statistical style analysis in their

C&K praise a review of their book that talks about the ‘elegantly dancing’
style of their prose. And they admit their own work sounds 'precious' and
'indulgent'. Is that where you want film studies to go?

Jason, why are you setting yourself up as an apologist for contradictory,
confusing, 'precious' and 'indulgent' work?

Finally, the following sentence undermines any credibility you may have
had! You write:

"It would be better if the different views of other scholars were not
policed in this imperious, immature and intemperate manner."

I like the apparent neutrality and universality of this sentence: "It would
be better ...". Also, "different views of other scholars were not policed"
- That just suppresses the analysis of the work of other scholars. When you
write sentences like this, you are advocating the most
politically-regressive, dangerous form of criticism - ideological through
and through, but parading as tolerant, neutral, and even-handed. You are
the one policing the debate, but in an underhand manner. That makes your
contribution to this debate naive and dishonest.


[Anyone interested in the particular ideological agenda behind Jason
Jacobs' naive and dishonest position, should consider reading Wendy Brown's
book 'Regulating Aversion: Tolerance in the Age of Identity and Empire',
2006. She exposes the pernicious values behind the "discourse of tolerance"
- the political and rhetorical ways the concept of tolerance is currently

On 27 October 2012 06:00, SCREEN-L automatic digest system <
[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> There is 1 message totaling 127 lines in this issue.
> Topics of the day:
>   1. Revisiting 'Solipsistic Film Criticism'
> ----
> Online resources for film/TV studies may be found at ScreenSite
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> Date:    Thu, 25 Oct 2012 22:03:20 +0000
> From:    Jason Jacobs <[log in to unmask]>
> Subject: Re: Revisiting 'Solipsistic Film Criticism'
> This debate, such as it is, has echoes of the exchange between Sam Rhodie
> and V.F. Perkins about the former's review of Film as Film, although the
> stakes are somewhat different.  Warren Buckland's account of Klevan &
> Clayton's The Language and Style of Film Criticism is quite unfair, not to
> mention lacking in generosity, a tendency that continues in his 'reply' to
> their 'reply' to it.  Of course WB has every right to write a vicious
> review: C&K ask in the opening paragraph of their 'reply': 'It is difficult
> to see why a reviewer (who is also the journal's editor) devotes ten pages
> to criticising, polemically, what he takes to be three ineffectual, and
> sometime incompetent, essays', to which WB retorts, 'In other words, C&K
> are wondering why a reviewer would be disappointed with their book.' As a
> friend of mine put it, that's such a great slide it should be available at
> the funfair. WB's characterisation of their contributions as solipsistic,
> superficial, impressionistic is so one-sided, so absorbed in the theatrical
> momentum of its rhetoric, that it misses the eloquent and detailed care
> with which they refresh and renew aspects of this area of film studies. The
> book is about the art of writing about film, of appreciating and analysing
> its writing, the ways in which writers evoke an aural-visual medium in
> words. It was hardly a manifesto. The fact that Klevan in particular is
> depicted as a dilettante only interested in repeating (with italics) bits
> of pretty writing is a grotesque caricature of a scholar who has written
> with more precision, care and eloquence in his published work over the past
> decade than any other I know.  And the way WB separates C&K from the other
> contributors is odd too, since many of them would surely be vulnerable to
> the same charge of 'romantic-impressionism' (Stern, Martin and Keathley
> most clearly). Clayton's chapter comes under particular attack, perhaps
> because it most clearly demonstrates the limitations of Bordwell's approach
> to film; but he is hardly the first to raise devastating criticisms of that
> scholar's output - think of, in no particular order, V.F. Perkins on Making
> Meaning, Andrew Britton on The Classical Hollywood Cinema, John Gibbs on
> Film Art's mistaken take on mise-en-scene, and (in a milder way) George
> Wilson's engagement with Bordwell's views of film narration. But WB accuses
> Clayton of a category error by comparing a textbook to a monograph (Film
> Art to Cavell's Pursuits of Happiness) and in doing so reveals the
> administrative impulse - its appetite for categorisation, fixing and
> sorting - that often blights otherwise interesting formalist output.  That
> is, certain versions of formalism tend toward an administrative
> comportment, hence the odd stress on system and rigour and the somewhat
> brutish hard-boiled insistence on scientific toughness evoked by words like
> 'interrogation'; WB reminds me of an administrator miffed at the way others
> have rashly written over the borders and boxes of his forms. Perkins has
> characterised this as 'physics envy' (we can see that at work in SB's use
> of the Wollen epigraph in his review) and one can see that in a higher
> education system dominated by instrumentalist thinking, this might seem an
> attractive route to some. In a sinister conclusion to the original review
> WB implies that it is a 'problem' that Klevan tries to 'place his
> solipsistic form of private criticism alongside textual analysis, Deleuze
> and performance studies in the university curriculum.' What do you mean by
> that Warren? In an era of teaching audits and REF peer review this is
> hardly a trivial matter. It would be better if the different views of other
> scholars were not policed in this imperious, immature and intemperate
> manner.
> Associate Professor Jason Jacobs
> Deputy Head
> School of English, Media Studies & Art History,
> The University of Queensland,
> St. Lucia Campus, Brisbane,
> Queensland, 4072 Australia
> ph: +61 7 3365 2960
> fax: +61 7 3365 2799
> email: [log in to unmask]
> CRICOS No: 00025B
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Film and TV Studies Discussion List [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
> On Behalf Of Warren Buckland
> Sent: Wednesday, 24 October 2012 3:21 AM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: [SCREEN-L] Revisiting 'Solipsistic Film Criticism'
> Dear colleagues
> For anyone interested in the 'Solipsistic Film Criticism' debate, you may
> like to know that I have posted a reply to Alex Clayton and Andrew Klevan
> on my webpage:
> Here are the opening paragraphs, to give some context (all references are
> to be found on the website):
> Revisiting 'Solipsistic Film Criticism': Reply to Clayton and Klevan
> Warren Buckland
> Alex Clayton and Andrew Klevan (C&K) have written a 'Reply' to my review
> essay 'Solipsistic Film Criticism', published in the 'New Review of Film
> and Television Studies'. My essay, a review of their edited book 'The
> Language and Style of Film Criticism', presented the opportunity to discuss
> in some detail the different assumptions underlying textual analysis and
> film criticism. However, to consider further these differing assumptions,
> we also need to address a few of C&K's errors.
> C&K ask in the opening paragraph of their 'Reply': 'It is difficult to see
> why a reviewer (who is also the journal's editor) devotes ten pages to
> criticising, polemically, what he takes to be three ineffectual, and
> sometime incompetent, essays'. In other words, C&K are wondering why a
> reviewer would be disappointed with their book. At the end of their
> 'Reply,' C&K recommend the reader consult a different review of 'The
> Language and Style of Film Criticism', by Nicholas Forster. It is easy to
> see why. Forster writes: 'each essay elegantly dances with unique style';
> 'rarely does a thought fade into the ether', etc. I must admit I failed to
> praise C&K's 'elegantly dancing style' in my review essay. Instead, I
> critically interrogated and engaged with their arguments and underlying
> assumptions. ...
> Warren Buckland
> Reader in Film Studies
> Oxford Brookes University
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> End of SCREEN-L Digest - 25 Oct 2012 to 26 Oct 2012 (#2012-132)
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