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Cinephilia and fandom: two fascinating fascinations

Goodsell, Matthew John (2014) Cinephilia and fandom: two fascinating fascinations. Masters thesis (MA), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

This thesis concerns the synthesis of two discourses which, at first glance, might seem quite disparate. On one hand is cinephilia, currently emerging as a type of self-reflexive love of film. Writers like Christian Keathley have begun, in the last decade or so, to outline an attitude to and discourse about film which is both adoring and analytical. In my first chapter, I look at the origins of cinephilia: we see how it emerged in France in the middle of the last century, notably on the pages of Cahiers du Cinéma, as a style of writing about film which was both highly enthusiastic and intellectually engaged. We look at how it functioned and what made it different from what had been before. I go on to outline Willeman's idea of the cinephiliac moment, where a writer seems to fixate upon a certain passage of filmic text. How this discourse functioned and continues to function today is then examined at some length. The second chapter of this thesis concerns fandom, fan studies, and the recent rise of fan activity as an area of academic interest. Scholars such as Henry Jenkins have started to look at what could be called a community: a group of people who often meet only online, but who share a deep love of certain filmic texts. They exhibit that love in a variety of ways: they use texts as the basis for their own artistic output. Theirs is thus a kind of creative love, where texts are played with, in away entered into. It will be shown how fandom is more of a physical kind of adoration, where fans seem to seek to enact their love, articulating it through creation rather than analysis. Yet the two discourses have some things in common. In the third chapter of this thesis, the relationship between the two will begin to be examined. As a way to start to look at this relationship, I look at my own love for certain filmic texts, most prominently Star Trek First Contact (Frakes 1996), in order to see whether it is best categorised as fandom, cinephilia, or a mixture of both. By looking at such reactions, both my own and those of others, one gets a sense that neither literature completely describes how certain people are currently reacting to certain texts. I show how such reactions go beyond words yet still demand to be articulated. They are often highly emotional; in my case my reasons behind fixating upon a certain piece of filmic text is deeply personal, rooted in my experiences as a disabled man. Thus, if the cinephiliac discourse seeks to explain why we love film, fandom answers by tactilely enacting that love. We will see how a hybrid discourse is emerging, then, and in the fourth chapter of this thesis, this hybrid will be expounded in greater detail. The relationship between fandom and cinephilia is not a straightforward one: on one level they are utterly different discourses; yet, on another, they seem to overlap and merge at certain points. Until now, scholarship behind both discourses has been utterly separate. Yet the prospect that the adoring, self-reflecting cinephile and the engaged, creative fan might be articulating similar things in different ways surely offers up exciting new areas of research.

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