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The Films of Stan Brakhage in the American Tradition of Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein and Charles Olson

By R. Bruce Elder
Subjects Art, Film & Media
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Paperback : 9781554582013, 583 pages, August 2011
Ebook (PDF) : 9780889208162, 583 pages, August 2011

Table of contents

Table of Contents for
The Films of Stan Brakhage in the American Tradition of Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein and Charles Olson by R. Bruce Elder

With Gratitude



From the Givenness of Nature to the Encumbered Modern Body

The Signifying Body

The Two Bodies in the Philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer: The Body Observed Externally and the Body Experienced from Within

The Modern Body’s Unbearable Burden of Being

The Harmony of Spirit and Body

The Primacy of the Subject Body and the Recessiveness of the Subject Body

Chapter 1. Four for America: Williams, Pound, Stein, Brakhage

Styles of English Metre

Meaning and Personal Being: Pound and Brakhage

The Seachange: Or, How Pound Came “To Break the Pentameter”

Bergson, Hulme, Pound, and Brakhage on the Body and Energy

Experience as Energy: A Pattern for Thinking

First-Person Singular: Bergson, Hulme, and Brakhage on the Primacy of Individuality

Between Self and World: The Image in Hulme, Williams, Brakhage

Writing = Composing Sound’s Energies, Filmmaking = Composing Light’s Energies: Gertrude Stein and Stan Brakhage’s Conceptions of Their Media

Digressive Interpolation: The Persistence of Emerson’s Vision in Stein’s Writing and Brakhage’s Filmmaking

Out of Stein: A Theory of Meaning for Stan Brakhage’s Films

The Paradox of a Perlocutionary Semantics: Brakhage and Stein on Artistic Meaning

The Romanticism of Brakhage’s Conception of Meaning

Chapter 2. The Conception of the Body in Open Form Poetics and Its Influence on Stan Brakhage’s Filmmaking

H. Lawrence and the Poetics of Energy

Two Crucial Influences on Embodied Poetics: A. N. Whitehead and Maurice Merleau-Ponty

A. N. Whitehead’s Project: Reconciling Permanence and Flux

Olson’s Energetics of Embodied Existence

Michael McClure’s Poetics: The Body Is an Organism. The Universe Is an Organism. A Poem Embodies an Aspect of the Universe’s Evolving Form

Allen Ginsberg: The Breath, the Voice, and the Poem

Action Painting as Performance



Selected Bibliography

Stan Brakhage Filmography



Since the late 1950s Stan Brakhage has been in the forefront of independent filmmaking. His body of work — some seventy hours — is one of the largest of any filmmaker in the history of cinema, and one of the most diverse. Probably the most widely quoted experimental filmmaker in history, his films typify the independent cinema.

Until now, despite well-deserved acclaim, there has been no comprehensive study of Brakhage’s oeuvre. The Films of Stan Brakhage in the American Tradition fills this void. R. Bruce Elder delineates the aesthetic parallels between Brakhage’s films and a broad spectrum of American art from the 1920s through the 1960s.

This book is certain to stir the passions of those interested in artistic critique and interpretation in its broadest terms.


"This challenging and important work demands the attention of film historians, scholars, critics, theoreticians, and media and culture commentators. In addition to a select bibliography, there is a glossary, a filmography, and 58 pages of notes. "

- M. Wayne Cunningham, Canadian Book Review Annual

"In R. Bruce Elder's The Films of Stan Brakhage in the American Tradition of Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, and Charles Olson, the link between Brakhage and the great poetic voices of the 20th century is persuasively established. ...Elder's greatest accomplishment in this book is his ability to interweave varying disciplines so that the reader becomes acutely aware of the points of intersection between media. Despite its wide-ranging topic, The Films of Stan Brakhage is meticulously researched, remarkably lucid, and provides a compelling argument for Brakhage's place alongside these great thinkers of the 20th century. "

- Christopher Luna, Rain Taxi

"Elder evidences a brilliant command of Brakhage's immense filmography and a lifetime's engagement with the poets he discusses. ...In every reading there are traces of the lessons Brakhage's cinema can offer to open-minded an open-eyed artists. In fact, The films of Stan Brakhage is less an academic study than the enthusiastic and fully committed response of one filmmaker to another and to the modernist tradition they both share. "

- P. Adams Sitney, Princeton University, author ofVisionary Films and Modernist Montage