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“Bombs of Laughter”: Motion Pictures, Mass Art, and Universal Language

“Bombs of Laughter”: Motion Pictures, Mass Art, and Universal Language

Chapter:
(p.136) 4 “Bombs of Laughter”: Motion Pictures, Mass Art, and Universal Language
Source:
Beautiful Democracy
Author(s):
Russ Castronovo
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226096308.003.0005

Instead of reading motion pictures as aesthetic artifacts, this chapter describes the political-aesthetic discourse that surrounds film. With the exception of one of Charlie Chaplin's, it does not undertake readings of individual films, if only because scholars such as Jonathan Auerbach, Jane Gaines, and Miriam Hansen bring much more expertise and insight to that endeavor. The chapter's use of Chaplin, moreover, does not present a reading of an early film, since it is concerned with treating Modern Times (1936), a film whose date of production makes it anything but an early film, as an artwork essay that provides a retrospective commentary on the vanishing prospect of motion pictures as a collective, even global, aesthetic medium. The chapter explores how social activists, psychologists, actors, and filmmakers invoked aesthetic principles to adduce political possibilities from what was heralded as a new, universal art form promising to inaugurate worldwide sensus communis.

Keywords:   motion pictures, Charlie Chaplin, Jonathan Auerbach, Jane Gaines, Miriam Hansen, Modern Times, aesthetic principles

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