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Classical Projections: The Practice and Politics of Film Quotation

Classical Projections: The Practice and Politics of Film Quotation by Eleni Palis

Oxford University Press • 2022 • Bookshelf

Quotations are a standard way that the humanities make meaning; the pull-quote, epigraph, and quotation are standard for citing evidence and invoking and interrogating authority in both literary and scholarly writing. However, film studies has yet to seriously examine how moving images can quote one another, convening interaction and creating new knowledge across time.

Classical Projections offers “film quotation” as a new concept for understanding how preexisting moving image fragments are reframed and re-viewed within subsequent films. As a visual corollary to literary quotation, film quotations embed film fragments in on-screen movie screens. Though film quotations have appeared since silent cinema, Classical Projections focuses on quotations of classical Hollywood film–mainstream American studio production, 1915-1950–as quoted in post-classical Hollywood, roughly 1960 to present. This strategic historical frame asks: how does post-classical cinema visualize its awareness of coming after a classical or golden age? How do post-classical filmmakers claim or disavow classical history? How do historically disenfranchised post-classical filmmakers, whether by gender, sexuality, or race, grapple with exclusionary and stereotype-ridden canons?

As a constitutive element of post-classical authorship, film quotations amass and manufacture classical Hollywood in retrospective, highly strategic ways. By revealing how quotational tellings of film history build and embolden exclusionary, myopic canons, Classical Projections uncovers opportunities to construct more capacious cultural memory. 

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