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August 2001, Week 2


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 13 Aug 2001 09:39:24 -0400
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CFP:   ACLA [comp lit] conference in puerto rico, 11-14 april 2002

appended below is a call for papers for next spring's ACLA conference  . . 
. for those
unfamiliar with the unusual way that conference is structured, it's very 
much worth
pointing out that the ACLA (American Comparative Literature Association) 
runs multiple 
day seminars at the annual conference . . .  those who give a paper in any 
are expected to attend the same seminar throughout the conference, thereby 
a very welcome (and all too rare) opportunity for extended dialogue about 
a single issue
. . .   participants also have the opportunity to sit in on any other 
seminars that do not
meet at the same time . . . full details may be found at the conference 
at  <>

the following proposal is designed to take advantage of the opportunity 
for extended
rumination about a topic that opens up in multiple directions 

requests for further information should be addressed to  Mike Frank <[log in to unmask]> 

1-2 page proposals by October 1, 2001, also to <[log in to unmask]> , 
copy to Kathleen Komar <[log in to unmask]>.


Alfred Hitchcock often talked about his use of a *McGuffin,*  an element 
in a film that sets the plot in motion, but ultimately turns out to be of 
little interest -- for example the "government secrets" that motivate the 
action of North by Northwest but that almost no one in the audience?and hardly any of the characters 
in the film--ever thinks about at all.

Discussions of the McGuffin have generally been limited to its role as a 
simple narrative trick used by Hitchcock.   But it's likely that this 
device is more than a mere trick, and that it may be found in places other 
than Hitchcock films.  That likelihood is the topic that this seminar 
proposes to consider.

The consideration will take two forms, narratological and thematic.

NARRATOLOGICAL:  A device as useful as the McGuffin certainly must appear 
elsewhere than in Hitchcock.  Part of the seminar will explore the use of 
McGuffins in other narratives.  Papers are invited discussing the use of 
the McGuffin -- or similar devices -- in other works, or discussing the 
narratological implications of the device itself.

THEMATIC:  Narrative devices have implications.  Papers are invited 
considering these implications, either abstractly -- as a matter of 
theoretical interest -- or in relationship to the way a McGuffin shapes 
the meaning of particular narratives, both fiction and film.   Sample 
questions might include: 
--What are we to make of a narrative in which the interest of the 
characters and the interest of the audience do not coincide? 
--Does the reliance on a McGuffin suggest a lack of a significant goals 
shared by characters and audience? What might such a lack reveal about the 
discursive community in which it plays a shaping part? 
--How might we want to read the distance between the McGuffin [the 
ostensible interest in the story] and what we take as its 'real' interest? 

This seminar, in short, seeks to explore the ways in which Hitchcock's 
'innocent' term could be used  as a useful tool for analyzing  narrative.
Papers that explore this question from any vantage point are welcome.

Screen-L is sponsored by the Telecommunication & Film Dept., the
University of Alabama: