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Reading Cavell's The World Viewed

A Philosophical Perspective on Film

William Rothman & Marian Keane

Film Theory and Criticism, Philosophy

Contemporary Approaches to Film and Media Series

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Paperback
Published: November 2000
ISBN: 9780814328965
Pages: 296 Size: 6x9
Illustrations: 28 black and white images
eBOOK
Published: November 2000
ISBN: 9780814340103
Review

Their book is beautifully written, and not only corrects mistaken responses to Cavell but goes beyond exposition to interpretive commentary —this is a superb addition to the growing literature on Cavell's work.

— Stanley Bates

In their thoughtful study of one of Stanley Cavell’s greatest yet most neglected books, William Rothman and Marian Keane address this eminent philosopher’s many readers, from a variety of disciplines, who have neither understood why he has given film so much attention, nor grasped the place of The World Viewed within the totality of his writings about film.

Rothman and Keane also reintroduce The World Viewed to the field of film studies. When the new field entered universities in the late 1960s, it predicated its legitimacy on the conviction that the medium’s artistic achievements called for serious criticism and on the corollary conviction that no existing field was capable of the criticism filmed called for. The study of film needed to found itself, intellectually, upon a philosophical investigation of the conditions of the medium and art of film. Such was the challenge The World Viewed took upon itself. However, film studies opted to embrace theory as a higher authority than our experiences of movies, divorcing itself from the philosophical perspective of self-reflection apart from which, The World Viewed teaches, we cannot know what movies mean, or what they are.

Rotham and Keane now argue that the poststructuralist theories that dominated film studies for a quarter of a century no longer compel conviction, Cavell’s brilliant and beautiful book can provide a sense of liberation to a field that has forsaken its original calling. read in a way that acknowledges its philosophical achievement, The World Viewed can show the field a way to move forward by rediscovering its passion for the art of film.

Reading Cavell’s The World Viewed will prove invaluable to scholars and students of film and philosophy, and to those in other fields, such as literary studies and American studies, who have found Cavell’s work provocative an fruitful.

William Rothman is a professor of motion pictures and director of the Graduate Program in Film Studies at the University of Miami. He is the author of the definitive Hitchcock—The Murderous Gaze (Harvard University Press, 1982), The "I" of the Camera: Essays in Film History, Criticism and Aesthetics (Cambridge University Press, 1989), and Documentary Film Classics (Cambridge University Press, 1998)

Marian Keane is an assistant professor of film studies at the University of Colorado.

Stanley Cavell's The World Viewed is a masterpiece of philosophical reflection on the ontology and phenomenology of film, but, almost 30 years from its publication, it has proven difficult for some readers and for the field of Film Studies to assimilate. Now William Rothman and Marian Keane's commentary should make it possible for Cavell's book to take its appropriate place in our intellectual life. Their book is beautifully written, and not only corrects mistaken responses to Cavell but goes beyond exposition to interpretive commentary -this is a superb addition to the growing literature on Cavell's work.

– Stanley Bates, Middlebury College

To the extend that Cavell's training in philosophy and the Whitmanesque poetry of his prose stand as barriers between readers and his accomplishments, the careful explications of those accomplishments provided by Rothman and Keane are deeply hopeful signs that film study is finally ready for Cavell. It's high time.

– Film Criticism