“That's Entertainment!”
Spectacle, Amusement, Audience and the Culture of Recreation in the Audiovisual Contexts of English-speaking countries

23rd Sercia Conference, Sept. 7-9, 2017
Department of the Arts - Università di Bologna, Italy
In collaboraboration with Centro La Soffitta (Department of the Arts) and Cineteca di Bologna

SERCIA, Société d’Etudes et de Recherche sur le Cinéma Anglophone (www.sercia.net), gathers international scholars to promote research and teaching in the field of English-speaking cinema.

Visit the conference website

Michele Fadda, Sara Pesce

Scientific committee: Jean-François Baillon, Giulia Carluccio, Leonardo Gandini, Michele Fadda, Giacomo Manzoli, Enrico Menduni, Franco Minganti, Guglielmo Pescatore, Sara Pesce, David Roche, Gianluca Sergi, Peter Stanfield.

Please send your proposal (biographical notice, 150 words max + abstract, 500 words max) in English or French by April 18, 2017. Notification of acceptance will be sent by May, 2, 2017. Upon acceptance, speakers will be required to become SERCIA members for 2017. For information on how to become a member, click here.

Conference fees: 40 Euros Lecturers/Professors; 20 Euros Students/ Independent scholars /Retired

Spectacle, recreation, amusement, free time, in a word entertainment: not something accessory, but rather a key element in understanding not only an aesthetic expression, but also certain socio-economic transformations, and in reality also political, of 20th century modernity. And yet the role played by the entertainment dimension in the codification, in particular, of the cultural specificity of the twentieth century, over and above the canons imposed by so-called high culture, is still today undervalued and only occasionally investigated in a careful and in-depth manner. The development of a discipline like that of film studies is a prime example. Notwithstanding meaningful exeptions influenced by television studies (i.e. C. Geraghty's groundbreaking study of female spectatorship of prime time soap operas), traditionally, theories of 20th century cinema, are committed first and foremost to giving aesthetic legitimization to the seventh art, following the critical tendency imposed on the models initiated, among others, by the Cahiers du cinéma. They have committed to protecting the territories of art from being contaminated by those of pure recreation, favouring, in their interpretation of the realm of entertainment, a sociological reading at the expense of a formal approach. A not so different attitude can sometimes be found also in television studies, where academic attention is often focused on distinguishing, from among the small screen productions, the territories associated with quality. There is, however, another way of viewing the complexity of the entertainment world, perhaps already initiated in his time by Gilbert Seldes, but systematized with greater awareness in the seminal essays written from the 1970s onwards by Richard Dyer. Departing precisely from these studies, in recent times new venues of investigation have tried to take entertainment more seriously. Nevertheless, there is still space for a whole series of particularly decisive questions, above all in the English language audiovisual environment – that of the USA and Great Britain, in primis, but not exclusively.

Is it possible, then, to rewrite a historiography of English-language cinema and television from the point of view of entertainment, over and above the schemes imposed by the politics of authors and of value judgement? What relations have been established, in the era of new means of mass communication, between popular entertainment and official culture? What effects have been produced by specific performative and recreational practices, coming from the various fields of expression (theatre, music, radio, serious and popular literature, comic strips) not only in the linguistic but also systemic evolution of cinema and television? What is the role played by technology in the development of recreational forms, including audiovisual, in the 20th century? How is the body viewed, engaged, or conceived, and what notion of personality and actoriality is imposed after the diffusion of a certain idea of entertainment? And again: to what extent, in the era of new media and the internet, can the main ways of entertainment - and their exploitation - that dominated the last century, still be operative?

The twenty-third SERCIA conference will endeavor to answer these and other questions, trying to offer new historical perspectives on the cultural forms of entertainment in the audiovisual production of English-speaking countries, that is to say in those territories in which greater space has been given to the conception of amusement that over the years has ended by imposing itself at a global level, transforming the customs, habits and the very culture of many nations, not only in the west.

Keynote speakers: Richard Dyer (University of St Andrews), Krin Gabbard (Stony Brook University)

Suggested topics:

Cultural heritages, taste trends, and cinematic phenomena: the role of ethnic, regional, national traditions in the construction of film entertainment; i.e. the "Jewish factor" in the idea of Hollywood; the influence of vaudeville, minstrel shows, burlesque, radio shows, Broadway, stand-up comedy on Hollywood; British cinema and the Music Hall; collective versus individual entertainment

Music, voice, sound: the role of the aural dimension in the devopoment of cinematic and television entertainment

Attraction vs Narration: the aesthetic of attractions in silent cinema; its persistence and development in classical and post classical cinema; cinema, television and special effects; theme parks and other forms of amusements and their relationship with filmic experience; technology and entertainment

High-brow, low-brow: what role does leisure play in the distinction between high culture and popular culture in a particular epoch and country? How is this distinction used in the comparison between cinema and television?

Audiences and fandom: Entertainment implies the notion of un-engaged, apparently non- productive behaviors, including fandom performances and the off-screen conduct of celebrities; the spectatorial experience and the spaces of entertainment; home cinema, video games, you tube, social networks and the domestication of entertainment

Film genres: genres openly addressing the material and imaginative resources of entertainment: the musical, the backstage film, the fandom film

Acting and body performance: from actors to singers to body builders, the performing body seen as the epicenter of entertainment: acting styles, performers' devices or equipment, costumes, traditions, experimentations. The pleasures of consuming stardom and the changing practices of consumption/construction of celebrity, where film competes with sports, fashion, politics, crime.

Glamour and fashion: the influence of fashion trends/eras in cinema and television attractiveness, excitement, seduction; how the contemporary "democratization of fashion" has affected the pleasure of film viewing.

Waning or/and persistence of entertainment in the contemporary medial landscape: cinema and television’s problematic position as the epicenter of popular entertainment within the the culture of media convergence

Minorities, race and gender tackled as entertainment: the fluctuations in the seriousness of the approach to diversity, power relations - including leisure and class, leisure and gender, queer culture, equality and social inclusion -; the changing theoretical systems thereto related (post- feminist film theory, post-colonial studies, trauma and memory studies)

Selected Biliography

Richard Abel, Americanizing the Movies and Movie-Mad Audiences 1910-1914, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006.

Scott Bukatman, Matters of Gravity. Special Effects and Superman in the 20th Century, Durham: Duke University Press, 2003.

Claudio Bisoni, Paolo Noto, Guglielmo Pescatore (eds) “Total Entertainment: rivedere la Disco Music”, «Cinergie. Il cinema e le altre arti», 9, april 2016.

Jim Collins, Architectures of Excess. Cultural Life in the Information Age, London, New York: Routledge, 1995.

Mark Dery, The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium. American Culture on the Brink, New York: Grove Press, 1999.

Richard Dyer, Only Entertainment, London, New York: Routledge, (1992) 2002.
John Fell,
Film and the Narrative Tradition, Berkeley: University of Oklahoma Press, 1974.
Neal Gabler,
An Empire of their Own. How the Jews Invented Hollywood, New York: Crown

Neal Gabler,
Life: The Movie. How Entertainment Conquered Reality, New York: Knopf, 1998

Douglas Gomery,
Shared Pleasures. A History of Movie Presentation in the United States,

Madison, Wis. : University of Wisconsin Press, 1992.
Jonathan Gray,
Television Entertainment, London, New York: Routledge, 2008. Tom Gunning, “An Aesthetic of Astonishment: Early Film and the (In)credulous

Spectator”, «Art & Text», 34, Spring 1999.
Tom Gunning “The Cinema of Attractions: Early Film, Its Spectator and the Avant-Garde”,

in Early Cinema Space Frame Narrative, ed. Thomas Elsaesser, London: BFI, 1990.
Hayward J.,
Consuming Pleasures: Active Audiences and Serial Fictions from Dickens to the

Soap Opera. Lexington, Ky: University Press of Kentucky, 1997.
Jim Hoberman, Jeffrey Shandler (eds),
Entertaining America. Jews, Movies and Broadcasting,

Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003.

Henry Jenkins, What Made Pistachio Nuts? Early Sound Comedy and the Vaudeville Aesthetic, New York: Columbia University Press, 1992.

Henry Jenkins, The Wow Climax: Tracing the Emotional Impact of Popular Culture, New York: New York University, 2006.

Henry Jenkins, Hop on Pop. The Politics and Pleasures of Popular Culture, Durham: Duke University Press, 2003.

W. T. Lhamon JR., Raising Cain. Blackface Performance from Jim Crow to Hip Hop, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000.

Lawrence Levine, Highbrow Lowbrow. The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988

Lawrence Levine, “The Folklkore of Industrial Society: Popular Culture and Its Audiences”, in The Unpredictable Past. Explorations in American Cultural History, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987.

Alan Lowell e Gianluca Sergi, Cinema Entertainment: Essays on Audiences, Films and Filmakers, Maidenhead, New York:Open University Press/McGraw-Hill, 2009.

Richard Maltby, Hollywood Cinema, Wiley-Blackwell, 2003.
Alan McKee, Christy Collins, Ben Hamley (ed)
Entertainment Industries: Entertainment as a

Cultural System, London, New York: Routledge, 2012
Alan Mckee,
Fun! What Entertainment Tells Us About Living a Good Life, London: Palgrave

Enrico Menduni,
Entertainment. Spettacoli, centri commerciali, talk show, parchi a tema, social

network, Bologna: il Mulino, 2013.
Lary May,
Screening Out the Past. The Birth of Mass Culture and the Motion Picture Industry,

Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1980.
Tania Modleski (ed.),
Studies in Entertainment. Critical Approaches to Mass Culture,

Bloomington-Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1986.
Barabara Klinger
, Beyond the Multiplex. Cinema, New Technologies, and the Home, Berkeley:

University of California Press, 2006.
Angela Nadalianis,
Neo Baroque Aesthetics and Contemporary Entertainment, Cambridge: MIT

Press, 2004.
David Nasaw,
Going Out. The Rise and Fall of Public Amusement, Cambridge: Harvard

University Press, 1993.
Frank Rose,
The Art of Immersion. How the Digital Generation is Remaking Hollywood,

Madison Avenue and the Way We Tell Stories, New York: Norton & Company, 2012.
R- L. Rutsky e Justin Wyatt,
Serious Pleasures: Cinematic Pleasure and the Notion of Fun,

«Cinema Journal» 30, n. 1 Fall 1990
Gilbert Seldes,
The 7 Lively Arts, New York: Sagamore Press, 1957.
Wanda Strauven (ed),
The Cinema of Attractions Reloaded: Film Culture in Transition,

Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2006.
Robert Warshow,
The Immediate Experience. Movies, Comics, Theatre and Other Aspects of

Popular Culture (1962), Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002 (with an epilogue by

Stanley Cavell).
Shay Sayre, Cynthia King, Jenning Bryant
, Entertainment and Society: Influences, Impacts, and

Innovations, London, New York: Routledge, 2010.