H.G. Wells, Modernity and the Movies (Liverpool Science Fiction Texts & Studies)

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9781846310591: H.G. Wells, Modernity and the Movies (Liverpool Science Fiction Texts & Studies)
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Wellsian scholars will appreciate H. G. Wells: Modernity and the Movies for its freshness and insight. The book also provides an excellent framework for a course on Wells that studies the interactions for his work in written and cinematic forms. Science Fiction Studies, Volume 35 2008 Williams's study captures Well's interaction with cinema comprehensively. The Wellsian, No. 31 2008 Keith Williams's H. G. Wells, Modernity and the Movies reckons in very different terms with another figure who carried his Victorianism into the twentieth century, Williams looks not only at Wells's actual writings about and engagements with early cinema but also at ways in which his work anticipated-or, indeed, pioneered-"filmic" techniques and habits of perception before film itself had fully arrived. Here the book joins recent work in media studies that seeks to uncover the technological infrastructures of historical ways of seeing and feeling. While never quite free of the risk of retroactively conforming its object of study to a subsequently apparent development path, Williams's close readings of the links with particular optical technologies and efforts in Wells's writing are never less than resourceful and engaging. Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, The Nineteenth Century Volume 50, Number 4 2010 The great British author, H.G. Wells, is well worth studying in relation to cinema, for he was manifestly very taken with moving images from quite early in his writings. I recently read his When the Sleeper Wakes of 1899 and was struck by how many time he mentions cinema words, such as 'kinetoscope', 'kinematograph story' and 'kineto-tele-photographs', and how central these film/TV contrivances are to his futuristic narrative. In later years Wells' works were often adapted for films and he tried his hand at scriptwriting, so the film theme runs through his entire career, and he always had a great belief in the future of the medium. He wrote in 1929: 'Behind the first cheap triumphs of the film today rises the possibility of a spectacle-music-drama, greater, more beautiful and intellectually deeper and richer than any artistic form humanity has hitherto achieved'. This book about the relationship between Wells and the cinema is thoroughly researched and full of interesting ideas; however, it is also at times obscure and poorly written, and the author throws his ideas at the reader rather than structuring them to make the arguments easy to follow. He also has a tendency to discuss films and other narratives without giving us basic information such as plot or details of production. This is a shame, because Williams clearly has a vast fund of knowledge about Wells and the media of his time, and has considerable insight into seeing connections among all these media. There seem to be relatively few actual errors, and the only obvious ones I spotted were titles of G.A. Smith films (then corrected in the endnote) and Rachael Low's first name (and Williams will not be the first film writer to have missed out one of the a's). The introduction offers a good overview of Wells' world, some of its links with filmdom, and details of the background and precursors of early cinema. The first chapter deals with Wells' use of cinematic techniques in his fiction, mainly in the period before cinema arrived: viz. The Time Machine and the short stories. Chapter 2 covers The Invisible Man, which Williams describes as 'a whole fiction from a single trope - metonymy' (this is explained, for those who don't understand, nine pages later). This chapter is perhaps the most difficult in the book, and has much mention of theorists from Derrida to Deleuze, McConnell to Marx, but no help for the reader in the form of a plot outline of the novel nor any introduction to James Whale's film (nor filmographic details). Chapter 3 deals with the theme of the future in Wells' novel When the Sleeper Wakes and in the film Metropolis, which Williams argues was heavily based on Wells' ideas. That is indeed probable, though there is a tendency in this book to see most science fiction movies as having inspiration in H.G. Wells' fiction, rather than in the works of other science-fiction writers. The fourth chapter tells us about Wells' belated forays into the actual writing of films. Though his influence had been felt from the early days of cinema and his works adapted as such from the teens onwards, Wells himself didn't work directly in the business until the late 1920s, when he wrote several film scripts based on the theme of world peace, including The King Who Was a King, Things to Come and The Man Who Could Work Miracles. The latter two were actually produced, though we learn little about the details of production of the third title. Chapter 5 deals with adaptations of Wells' written work for the cinema, and his other influences on film narratives, covering at greatest length versions of The Time Machine and War of the Worlds. Again details of plot or production are sparse, and we learn little of Spielberg's 2005 version of the latter story, which is curious given that this film is well known to modern filmgoers (despite not being very good, in my opinion). The conclusion offers final thoughts - some rather interesting ones - about Wells' significance in relation to the cinema. It is worth adding that the book has a section of nicely printed pictures: mainly illustrations that appeared in the magazine versions of Wells' short stories. These are quite fabulous, and one wonders to what extent early filmmakers might have been influenced by these figures as much as by the accompanying texts by the great writer. Henri Lanos in particular is an artist worthy of further research. Early Popular Visual Culture: 8,3 201008 This book about the relationship between Wells and the cinema is thoroughly researched and full of interesting ideas. It is worth adding that the book has a section of nicely printed pictures: mainly illustrations that appeared in the magazine versions of Wells' short stories. These are quite fabulous, and one wonders to what extent early filmmakers might have been influenced by these figures as much as by the accompanying texts by the great writer. Early Popular Visual Culture: 8,3 201008

Vom Verlag:

This book investigates Wells' interest in cinema and related media technologies, by placing it back into the contemporary cultural and scientific contexts giving rise to them. It plugs a gap in understanding Wells' contribution to exploring and advancing the possibilities of cinematic narrative and its social and ideological impacts in the modern period. Previous studies concentrate on adaptations: this book accounts for the specifically (proto)cinematic techniques and concerns of Wells' texts. It also focuses on contemporary film-making in dialogue with his ideas. Alongside Hollywood's later transactions, it gives equal weight to neglected British and continental European dimensions. Chapter 1 shows how early writings ("The Time Machine" and short stories) feature many kinds of radically defamiliarised vision. These constitute imaginative speculations about the forms and potentials of moving image and electronic media. Chapter 2 discusses the power of voyeurism, absent presence and the disjunction of sound-image reproduction implied in "The Invisible Man" and its topical politics, updated in notable screen versions. Chapter 3 extends this to dystopian warnings of systematic surveillance, broadcasting of celebrity personae and post-literate video culture in "When the Sleeper Wakes", a crucial template for urban futures on film. Chapter 4 analyses Wells' belated return to screenwriting in the 1930s. It accounts for his broadbrow ambition of mediating between popular and avant-garde tendencies to promote his cause and its mixed results in "Things to Come", "The Man Who Could Work Miracles", etc. Chapter 5 finally surveys Wells' legacy on both small and large screens. It considers whether, as well as being raided for scenarios for spectacular effects, his subtexts still nourish an evolving tradition of alternative SF, which duly critiques the innovations and applications of its host media.

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