Terms that Matter: Naming and Labelling in English-speaking Cinema
This issue invites proposals from a broad range of perspectives (film history, film economics, star studies, film genre theory, film narratology, spectatorship and reception studies) that will investigate the pragmatics of naming and labelling, conceived as processes, in English-speaking cinema.
The first line of investigation concerns the nature and function of titles both as a component of the paratext and as a marketing device. If the question of film genre constitutes its own field within film studies, little attention has been paid to that essential element of the paratext: the title. Thus, articles that reflect on the relationships between title, genre and product are especially welcome. The relationship between the title of the source work and that of the film—e.g., The Birth of a Nation (Griffith, 1915) adapted from Thomas Dixon’s Clansman—the title and its iconography, the title and its poster, the English title and translation into other languages—e.g., Dawn of the Dead (Romero, 1978) ® Zombie—and ultimately the title and the genre, i.e., its (in)coherence and hence readability.
Articles can also pursue Rick Altman’s pragmatic approach to film genre by considering the naming and labelling process that genrification entails (e.g. according to Altman, “musical” was first used as an adjective in 1929-1930, while “a musical” was only used in 1933); the role played by producers and critics in the construction of a genre and the labelling of films—Charles O’Brien’s study of film noir is a case in point—as well as the modes of address involved, namely the use value of the construction of the genre (e.g. the “woman’s film” by feminist film critics in the 1980s).
The transition from dominant English-speaking culture to regional, minority, commonwealth and post-colonial film can also be examined. Studies of translations are encouraged. The naming of stars (e.g. Marilyn Monroe, Bugs Bunny) can also be considered. Likewise, the perception or marketing of a work as a television or cinema production is likely to influence its interpretation, and individual directors are labeled differently according to whether they have worked mostly for the cinema or for television—think of Peter Watkins, Alan Clarke and Peter Kosminsky. The history of cinema also includes dramatic moments when “naming names” referred to specific political contexts—such as McCarthyism—which have provided subtexts or indeed open texts for particular films.
Finally, articles can explore the pragmatics of naming, labelling and addressing as they are represented within the diegesis—e.g. the names of characters, name-calling or the labelling process, for instance, the discrepancy between text and image when the bird constructs Alice as “a serpent” in Alice in Wonderland (1951) or when Dolores Driscoll constructs her neighbors the Ottos as “hippies” in The Sweet Hereafter (Egoyan, 1997)—and especially insomuch as they potentially reflect the film’s address to a real or an implied spectator (through the use of subtitles, the voiceover or more implicit modes of address). Psychoanalytical, cognitive and phenomenological approaches to spectatorship will be considered.
Altman, Rick. Film/Genre. London: BFI, 1999.
Chion, Michel. La Voix au cinéma. Paris: Cahiers du cinéma, 1984 .
Derrida, Jacques. Otobiographies. L’enseignement de Nietzsche et la politique du nom propre, Paris : Galilée, 1984-2005
Derrida, Jacques. Sauf le nom, Paris : Galilée, 1993 / 2006.
Mayne, Judith. Cinema and Spectatorship. London & New York: Routledge, 1993.
Moine, Raphaëlle. Les Genres du cinéma. Paris: Armand Colin, 2002.
O’Brien, Charles. “Film Noir in France: Before the Liberation.” Iris 21 (1996): 7-20.
Rouxel-Cubberly, Noëlle. Les Titres de films. Paris: Michel Houdiard, 2011.
Russell, Jesse and Ronald Cohn, ed. Intertitle. Book on Demand, 2012.