Accidents Made Permanent: Theater and Automatism in Stanley Cavell, Michael Fried, and Matías Piñeiro

Modern Language Notes 135 (5):1283-1314 (2020)
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This essay provides an interpretation of the potential and limits of Michael Fried's difficult claims in his essay "Art and Objecthood" (1967) that cinema by its nature escapes the problems of modernism and also escapes the problems of theater. By focusing on Stanley Cavell's account of how cinema as an automatic medium escapes problems associated with variability across performances, I try to render a version of Fried's claim about cinema and theater that can ground a figurative version of his claim about cinema and modernism, where film at least provides us a symbol of relief from concerns about medium specificity. In the second part of the essay I argue that something close to Cavell's and Fried's thoughts (about using the figure of theater to remind us of cinema's specificity, but also of cinema in its character as a symbol of relief from medium-specific concerns) takes on a certain urgency in questions about what cinema is in the digital age, manifested in representations of theater in the digitally photographed "Shakespeariadas" series by the contemporary Argentine filmmaker Matías Piñeiro.

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Byron Davies
Universidad Del Claustro de Sor Juana


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