An ABC of Film: Hollis Frampton and the Cultural Tradition of Film

My Ph.D. thesis, completed at King’s College, London, in 2003 (unpublished), focuses on Hollis Frampton, a central figure of the practice of film that has variously been referred to as “experimental”, “underground” and “avant-garde”. This thesis attempts to demonstrate the coherence of Frampton’s ambitious project of constituting a tradition of film. It is a detailed examination of one film and one text, both key components of Frampton’s project: Zorns Lemma (1970), Frampton’s most celebrated film, and his essay “For a Metahistory of Film: Commonplace Notes and Hypotheses” (1971). Frampton’s idea of tradition extends well beyond the history of cinema and includes literature and the visual arts as well as philosophy and science. My thesis attempts to reveal more fully than before the nature and intent of Frampton’s project as a project, rather than as a series of disconnected, isolated fragments.

It is also the argument of this thesis that the neglect suffered by Frampton’s work is representative of larger lacunae in film studies, in particular the failure to expand its discourse to fully take into account the relationship of film to non-filmic cultural concerns. Although the thesis does not extend its discussion beyond the work of Frampton, it is part of the intent behind the close readings offered here to demonstrate ways in which film may be relocated within broader cultural discourses and how such a relocation may offer new ways of thinking not only about film but about the place of film in cultural history.

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