Filmic Philosophy and New Gamesman
"More and more people are starting to take film seriously--to answer the same demands made of serious criticism of any art," says the philosopher Stanley Cavell, Cabot Professor of Aesthetics and the General Theory of Value. "There's just now beginning to be a generation of people trained in the study of film."
Cavell is among the Harvard professors who have helped spur on this new interest in rigorous film analysis in an ongoing series of books published by Harvard University Press. The fourth and latest volume of the Harvard Film Studies is Cavell's Pursuits of Happiness, a close analysis of seven movies of the 30's and 40's that Cavell calls "comedies of remarriage."
The book--and the whole series--"makes no excuse for the fact that its subject is film," says Cavell. Bringing together sources ranging from Shakespeare and Milton to Freud and Wittgenstein, Cavell examines the movies for such themes as rebirth, liberty, and interdependence.
"The book asks the implicit question whether film can be taken as a serious art," Cavell says.
And is the implicit answer yes?
"The implicit answer is 'What do you mean by art?'''
In April, Harvard University Press will bring out the fifth book of the Film Studies Series--Hitchcock: The Murderous Gaze, by William D. Rothman, associate professor of Visual and Environmental Studies.
The book, Rothman's first, considers five Hitchcock films--"a peculiar group," Rothman says: "The Lodger," "Murder," "The Thirty-Nine Steps," "Shadow of a Doubt," and "Psycho."
A philosopher by training, Rothman asks many of the same fundamental questions Cavell does. "I try to demonstrate two things," he says, "what the films are about and what it takes to take a great film seriously. As a great 20th-century popular art, film is a serious philosophical subject."
Rothman's next project is the script of a Hitchcock-like thriller that he says "follows out many of the book's insights." Tentatively entitled "The Mayan Codex," the script is now being read by agents and producers. "It's too soon for me to run to the bank," Rothman admits.
Michael Maccoby '54, whose book The Gamesman was a best-seller in 1977, has drawn on his research as director of the Kennedy School's Program on Technology, Public Policy, and Human Development to write a new study on modern management called The Leader (Simon and Schuster) The book is, in Maccoby's words, "an analysis of why our modes of leadership don't work today."
"I've tried to understand how we can design technology and work to further human and economic development," he says. "And over the past ten years, I've seen that this requires a new kind of leadership."
A large portion of The Leader is devoted to a look at six contemporary figures whom Maccoby sees as role-models of leadership, ranging from the Black foreman of a southern factory to an assistant secretary of Commerce.
Not surprisingly, Maccoby himself has done a little leading in his time. In 1954, as the president of The Crimson, he and George Abrams, the managing editor, stole the Lampoon's treasured ibis statue and presented it to a high-ranking Russian diplomat in New York as a token of goodwill and friendship on the part of all American students.
"The Lampoon was very humorless about the whole thing," Maccoby recalls today. "The statue was all crated and loaded on a boat for Russia and they came and grabbed it."
A pair of Harvard Expository Writing teachers--one past and one present--will each celebrate a newly published book this week at a party at the Grolier Book Shop, the Plympton St. poetry bookstore. On Saturday from 4 to 6, the festivities will be for Lloyd Schwartz's volume of poetry These People (Wesleyan University Press). Schwartz's a former instructor of expository writing, currently teaches at Boston State and reviews movies for the Boston Phoenix.
On Friday the 20th, from 4:30 to 6, Grolier will fete John Domini, whose novel Bedlam has just come out from Fiction International. Bedlam's genre is definitely a rarity for Grolier, says the bookstore's owner. Louisa Solano: "Domini and Monroe Engel are the only two novelists I allow in the store."