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David Bordwell: Wikis


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David Bordwell (born 23 July 1947) is a prominent American film theorist, film critic, and author. He is the Jacques Ledoux Professor of Film Studies, Emeritus in the Department of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He is married to Kristin Thompson, with whom he has written two textbooks: Film Art and Film History. Film Art is the most widely used introductory film textbook in the United States.[1]

Bordwell lecturing on the economics of the film industry; his whiteboard diagram shows the oligopoly that existed in the US film industry during the Golden Age of Hollywood.





Bordwell is a prolific scholar, interested in auteur studies (Ozu, Eisenstein, Dreyer), national cinemas (Hong Kong), history of film style, and narrative theory. Bordwell is considered the founder of cognitive film theory, an approach that relies on cognitive psychology as a basis for understanding film's effects. It was established as an alternative to the psychoanalytic/interpretive approach that dominated film studies in the 1970s and '80s.


Bordwell has also been associated with a methodological approach known as neoformalism, although this approach has been more extensively written about by Kristin Thompson.[2] Neoformalism is an approach to film analysis based on an observation first made by the literary theorists known as the Russian Formalists: that there is a distinction between a story and the form that conveys the story. For example, in a detective story, the murder comes at the beginning of the chain of events, but we find out the details about the murder at the end of the film, not the beginning. Much of neoformalism deals with the idea of 'defamiliarization' which is the general neoformalist term for the basic purpose of art in our lives: to show us familiar objects or concepts in a manner that encourages us to look at them in a new way.

Neoformalists reject many assumptions and methodologies made by other schools of film study, particularly hermeneutic (interpretive) approaches, among which he counts Lacanian psychoanalysis and certain variations of post-structuralism. In Post-Theory: Reconstructing Film Studies, Bordwell and co-editor Noël Carroll argue against these types of approaches, which they claim act as "Grand Theories" that use films to confirm pre-determined theoretical frameworks, rather than attempting to do middle-level research that can actually illuminate how films work. Bordwell and Carroll coined the term "SLAB theory" to refer to theories that use the ideas of Saussure, Lacan, Althusser, and/or Barthes. Many film scholars have criticized neoformalism, notably Slavoj Žižek, of whom Bordwell has himself been a long-time critic.[3] Their criticism is generally not based on any internal incosistencies in neoformalism; rather, they argue that neoformalism is an overly limited approach that does not incorporate cultural approaches.

Bordwell delivering a lecture on film theory.


External links


  1. ^ Back cover of Film Art: An Introduction, 7th edition. McGraw Hill. 2004.  
  2. ^ In Thompson, Kristin (1988). Breaking the Glass Armor. Princeton Univ Press.  
  3. ^ David Bordwell. "Slavoj Zizek: Say Anything". David Bordwell's Website on Cinema. Retrieved March 28, 2006.  


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