Theses Doctoral

The Educated Spectator: Cinema and Pedagogy in France, 1909-1930

Ionita, Casiana Elena

This dissertation draws on a wide range of sources (including motion pictures, film journals, and essays) in order to analyze the debate over the social and aesthetic role of cinema that took place in France from 1909 to 1930. During this period, as the new medium became the most popular form of entertainment, moralists of all political persuasions began to worry that cinematic representations of illicit acts could provoke social unrest. In response, four groups usually considered antagonistic -- republicans, Catholics, Communists, and the first film avant-garde known as the Impressionists -- set out to redefine cinema by focusing particularly on shaping film viewers. To do so, these movements adopted similar strategies: they organized lectures and film clubs, published a variety of periodicals, commissioned films for specific causes, and screened commercial motion pictures deemed compatible with their goals. Tracing the history of such projects, I argue that they insisted on educating spectators both through and about cinema. Indeed, each movement sought to teach spectators of all backgrounds how to understand the new medium of cinema while also supporting specific films with particular aesthetic and political goals. Despite their different interests, the Impressionists, republicans, Catholics, and Communists all aimed to create communities of viewers that would learn a certain way of decoding motion pictures. My main focus is on how each group defined its ideal spectator, on the tensions manifested within their pedagogical projects, and on the ways in which these projects intersected. Ultimately, the history uncovered here sheds new light on key questions about cinema's impact that marked the twentieth century.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
French and Romance Philology
Thesis Advisors
Ladenson, Elisabeth
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 22, 2013