Caetlin Benson-Allott, "The Stuff of Spectatorship: Material Cultures of Film and Television" (U California Press, 2021)

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“Made of light and later sound, the film experience cannot be touched, but that does not mean it is immaterial.” So writes Dr. Caetlin Benson-Allott in her third academic monograph, The Stuff of Spectatorship: Material Cultures of Film and Television (University of California Press, April 2021). In The Stuff of Spectatorship, Dr. Benson-Allott turns away from that canonical concept of medium specificity to explore the nature of material specificity. How might the cinematic and televisual apparatus be expanded to incorporate the lost off-the-air recording, the decaying VHS tape, the mediocre branded Cabernet, and the eruption of violence at your local multiplex? It is not just what you watch, but how you watch, that makes meaning. This reframing not only has profound implications for how critics and fans enjoy their preferred media, while laying bare the racist and classist commitments at the heart of our shared material media cultures.

In this discussion, Dr. Benson-Allott describes the origin of her latest project, details her decision to include herself as a character in the proceedings, and talks about her work as the editor at the disciplinary flagship, Journal of Cinema and Media Studies.

Caetlin Benson-Allott is Professor of English and Film & Media Studies at Georgetown University. She is the author of The Stuff of Spectatorship: Material Cultures of Film and Television (University of California Press, 2021), Remote Control (Bloomsbury, 2015), and Killer Tapes and Shattered Screens: Video Spectatorship from VHS to File Sharing (University of California Press, 2013). She is also Editor of the Journal of Cinema and Media Studies (JCMS), the scholarly publication of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies, and writes a regular column on politics, platforms, and contemporary media for Film Quarterly.

Annie Berke is the Film Editor at the Los Angeles Review of Books and author of Their Own Best Creations: Women Writers in Postwar Television (University of California Press, 2022). Her writing has been published in Public Books, Literary Hub, Feminist Media Histories, Ms., and Camera Obscura.

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