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Filming War

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Humanitas Visiting Professor in War Studies 2012: Jay Winter

Professor Jay Winter (Charles J Stille Professor of History, Yale University) will give a series of three public lectures and a concluding symposium on Imagining War in the 20th Century and After.


The lectures explore mediating languages and symbolic forms which writers, artists, and filmmakers have used to represent war since 1900. This attention to language in cultural history is at the core of this interpretation. What we know of war is always mediated knowledge and feeling. The event itself, what Walt Whitman called the red thing, the actual killing, is beyond us. We need lenses to filter out some of its blinding, terrifying light in order to see it at all. The lectures want to draw attention to these lenses as the elements which make understanding war possible at the same time as they limit what we see.

The third and final lecture addresses a central problem in the framing of war in film. That problem is to determine how filmmakers have chosen between the spectacular and the indirect approach to making war films. Both have been mainstays of the industry since its foundation, just in the nick of time for the arrival of industrialized, assembly-line violence in 1914. The claim is that the genre of war films has a history, a shift in approach over time, which always runs up against the immovable limit condition of the art: which is, that every attempt to film war fails.

For more information on this series, please see the following link:

This talk is part of the Humanitas series.

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