Circulating within The Modern Cinematic Image

Display Schedule

Code Completion Credits Range Language Instruction Semester
311CIRM ZK 3 4 hours (45 min) of instruction per week, 39 to 54 hours of self-study English winter

Subject guarantor

Name of lecturer(s)

Erik Sherman RORABACK

Learning outcomes of the course unit

By the end of the course students will:

-learn both - how to watch a film and how to use other disciplines to throw more clear light on the cultural form of cinema

-recognize a different perspective on the development of an important and influential cultural form of the twentieth-century, the cultural system of film

-writing and presentation of an academic text

Mode of study

lecture plus discussion

Prerequisites and co-requisites

no prerequsities

Course contents

The aim of this course is to awaken for the active spectator, in terms of aesthetic, cultural capital and politics, new utopian ways of being, dreaming, interpreting, looking, and thinking as so many forms of “labor” and of “movement”. Combining these will promote an ecology of dialectical questioning and thinking about new, utopian post-capitalist forms of beauty, equality, and freedom for the twenty-first century. These movement and labor forms are dialectically subject within the space of the cinematic frame and institution to both regressive-capitalist and progressive-emancipatory-post-capitalist forms of “circulation”. The seminar thus draws on, and explores egalitarian and novel non-hegemonic ways of engaging gestures, ideas, images, and scenes in films from a range of modernist global films and world-auteurs: Maya Deren (Ukraine/USA), Sergei Eisenstein (USSR), Carl Theodor Dreyer (Denmark), D.W. Griffith (USA), Buster Keaton (USA), Fritz Lang (Austria), Friedrich Murnau (Germany), Dziga Vertov (USSR), and Orson Welles (USA). Cinema as the art of forms of movement thus will be evaluated anew. Attention will be given to those cinematic moments and scenes that teach and that train us in new non-dominatory and emancipated viewing strategies of movement and circulation as so many forms of utopian thinking and looking. In so doing, we consider arts and forms of movement and circulation as not only subject to capitalist commodification, but also as modes of active and transformative engagement, interpretation, and thinking that take place precisely in a shared space for post-capitalist common content, creation, and thought for post-capitalist and emancipated utopian forms of circulation and circulationism. The role of cinematic silence and of the unconscious in film culture will also be assessed.

Critical and theoretical literature engaged will include film aesthetics, criticism, and philosophy from Theodor W. Adorno (Germany), Nico Baumbach (Italy), André Bazin (France), Walter Benjamin (Germany), Leo Bersani-Ulysse Dutoit (USA), David A. Cook (USA), Maya Deren (Ukraine), Gilles Deleuze (France), Sergei Eisenstein (USSR), Mark Fisher (UK), Owen Hulatt (USA), Sarah Keller (USA), Fredric Jameson (USA), Siegfried Kracauer (Germany), Niklas Luhmann (Germany), Todd McGowan (USA), Christian Metz (France), Edgar Morin (France), Jacques Rancière (France), Josh Robinson (USA), Erik S. Roraback (USA/Czechia), Steven Shaviro (USA), Bernard Stiegler (France), Robert T. Tally Jr. (USA), François Truffaut (France), and Slavoj Žižek (Slovenia/UK). Cultural Mobility: A Manifesto by Stephen Greenblatt (USA), inter alia, will also be engaged. The course is conducted in English and all films are either in English or have English inter-titles or sub-titles. Clips and special features will also be shown. To allow sufficient time for lecture/discussion, presentations, and screenings, the course will consist of three clock hours (i.e., four academic hours). We shall engage our target pictures in a counterintuitive counter chronological way in order to undercut overly facile teleological ways of thinking and of reasoning; this will also provide us with a different perspective on the development of the cultural system of film.

The course covers following topics:

Experimental Film from Maya Deren

The Early Sound Soviet Cinema and the Late-Style Quiet Eisenstein

Orson Welles, American Film and the Advent of the Time-Image

Silent Soviet Film, Dialectical Montage and the Camera-Eye

Silent Film and the Close-Up

Buster Keaton and the Aesthetic of Dizziness

German Expressionism and the Socio-Economic

D.W. Griffith and the Pioneering of a Medium

Recommended or required reading


DVD tapes: see schedule

Selections from the following critical and theoretical texts will be available in a course-reader or will be adduced in the lectures or readings authored by the teacher-scholar:

ABBOTT, Mathew: Abbas Kiarostami and film-philosophy (Edinburgh, 2017).

ADORNO, Theodor W.: Aesthetics, 1958/59, ed. Eberhard Ortland, trans. Wieland Hoban (Polity, 2019).

BARBER, Stephen: The Screaming Body (Creation, 1999).

BAUMBACH Nico: Cinema/Politics/Philosophy (Columbia, 2019).

BAZIN, André: What is Cinema? Volume 1, essays selected and trans. Hugh Gray, foreword Jean Renoir, new foreword Dudley Andrew (California, 2005).

_ . What is Cinema? Volume 2, essays selected and trans. Hugh Gray, foreword François Truffaut, new foreword Dudley Andrew (California, 2005).

BENJAMIN, Walter. Selected Writings, Volume 3, 1935–1938, trans. Edmund Jephcott, Howard Eiland, and Others, eds. Howard Eiland and Michael W. Jennings (Harvard, 2002).

BERSANI, Leo and ULYSSE Dutoit: Arts of Impoverishment: Beckett, Rothko, Resnais (Harvard, 1993).

BÍLEK, Petr A. and Tomáš DIMTER, eds. Krajina bez vlastností: Literatura a Střední Evropa / Landschaft ohen, Eigenschaften: Literatur und Mitteleuropa, Peteru Demetzovi k 85. Narozeninám/ Festschrift für Peter Demetz zum 85. Geburtstag, eds. Petr A. Bílek, Tomáš Dimter (Praha: Aktion, 2007/2010).

BURNHAM, Clint. Fredric Jameson and the Wolf of Wall-Street (Bloomsbury Academic, 2016).

CONRAD, Peter: The Mysteries of Cinema: Movies and Imagination (Thames & Hudson, 2021).

_ . The Stories of His Life: Orson Welles (Faber & Faber, 2003).

COOK, David A.: A History of Narrative Film (Norton, 2004).

CRUZ, Cynthia: The Melancholia of Class: A Manifesto for the Working Class (Repeater, 2021).

DELEUZE, Gilles: Cinema 1: The Movement-Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam (Minnesota, 1986).

_ . Cinema 2: The Time-Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta (Minnesota, 1989).

DEREN, Maya: Essential Deren: Collected Writings on Film (Documentext, 2005).

DREW, William M. D.W. Griffith’s ‘Intolerance’: Its Genesis and its Vision. (McFarland, 2001).

DURHAM, Scott and Dilip GAONKAR, eds.: Distributions of the Sensible: Rancière, between Aesthetics and Politics, With an afterword by Jacques Rancière (Northwestern, 2019).

EISENSTEIN, Sergei: Film Form: Essays in Film Theory, trans. and intro. Jay Leda (Harvest, 1977).

EISNER Lotte H.: The Haunted Screen: Expressionism in the German Cinema and the Influence of Max Reinhardt (California-Berkeley, 1969).

FISHER, Mark: The Weird And The Eerie (Repeater, 2016).

GREENBLATT, Stephen with Ines Županov, Reinhard Meyer-Kalkus, Heike Paul, Pál Nyíri, Friederike Pannewick, Cultural Mobility: A Manifesto (Cambridge, 2010).

HARBORD, Janet. Ex-Centric Cinema: Giorgio Agamben and Film Archaeology (Bloomsbury, 2016).

HULATT, Owen: Adorno’s Theory of Philosophical and Aesthetic Truth (Columbia, 2016).

KELLER, Sarah: Maya Deren: Incomplete Control (Columbia, 2015).

JAMESON, Fredric: Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions (Verso, 2005).

_ . Raymond Chandler: The Detections of Totality (Verso, 2016).

_ . The Geopolitical Aesthetic: Cinema and Space in the World System (Indiana, 1995).

KRACAUER, Siegfried: From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film (Princeton, 1947).

LAMBERT, Gregg: “The Brain is the Screen: An Interview with Gilles Deleuze” in Flaxman, Gregory, ed., The Brain is the Screen: Deleuze and the Philosophy of Cinema (Minnesota, 2000).

LUHMANN, Niklas: The Reality of the Mass Media, trans. Kathleen Cross (Stanford, 2000).

MAST, Gerald, Marshall COHEN and Leo BRAUDY, eds.: Film Theory & Criticism: Introductory Readings, Volume 4 (Oxford, 1992).

McGOWAN, Todd: The Real Gaze: Film Theory after Lacan (SUNY, 2007).

METZ, Christian: Film Language: A Semiotics of the Cinema (Chicago, 1990).

MORIN, Edgar: The Cinema, or The Imaginary Man, trans. Lorraine Morimer (Minnesota, 2005).

_ . The Stars, trans. Richard Howard, foreword Lorraine Mortimer (Minnesota, 2005).

NANCY, Jean-Luc: The Creation of the World; or, Globalization, trans. with an intro. François Raffoul and David Pettigew (SUNY, 2007).

NICHOLS Bill, ed. Maya Deren and the American Avant-Garde. (California, 2001).

RANCIÈRE, Jacques: Film Fables, trans. Emiliano Battista (Berg, 2006).

_ . The Emancipated Spectator, trans. Gregory Elliott (Verso, 2011).

_ . The Future of the Image, trans. Gregory Elliott (Verso, 2007).

_ . The Intervals of Cinema, trans. John Howe (Verso, 2014).

ROBINSON, Josh. Adorno’s Poetics of Form. (SUNY, 2018).

RORABACK, Erik S.: a select band of essays adduced below (some published and some unpublished) from a two-volume book project that is being prepared for publication. Working title: Forms of Cinematic Capital: Circulation, Movement, and Thought.

SHAVIRO, Steven: The Cinematic Body, Theory Out of Bounds, Volume 2 (Minnesota, 1993).

STIEGLER, Bernard: Automatic Society, Volume 1: The Future of Work, trans. Daniel Ross (Polity, 2016).

_ . Technics and Time, 3: Cinematic Time and the Question of Malaise , trans. Stephen Barker (Stanford, 2011).

_ . The Age of Disruption: Technology and Madness in Computational Capitalism, followed by A

Conversation about Christianity with Alain Jugnon, Jean-Luc Nancy and Bernard Stiegler, trans. Daniel Ross (Polity, 2019).

TALLY, Robert T. Jr.: Spatiality (Routledge, 2016).

_ . Utopia in the Age of Globalization: Space, Representation, and the World-System (Palgrave

Macmillan, 2013).

TRAUFFAUT, François: “Foreword” to André Bazin’s Orson Welles: A Critical View (Acrobat, 1978), pp. 1-27.

TSIVIAN, Yuri: Ivan the Terrible (BFI Film Classics, 2002).

ŽIŽEK, Slavoj: In Defense of Lost Causes (Verso, 2008).

Assessment methods and criteria

Course Requirements:

To receive credit for the seminar students must

  1. have no more than two absences out of the twelve total weekly sessions (three absences are strictly unallowed); arriving more than ten minutes late at the beginning of the seminar or leaving early will be considered an absence for that full session.
  2. give one oral presentation on a film and on the required text(s) for that week
  3. submit a mid-term essay and
  4. produce a final essay

Final essay (3000 words): 30%,

Mid-term essay (1500 words): 20%,

Oral presentation: 20%,

Attendance and participation: 30%

Essay topics will be distributed at least two weeks before they are due.

Arriving more than ten minutes late at the beginning of the seminar, or leaving early, will be considered an absence for that session. During class time, mobile phones are to be off and computers may be on for note-taking only and not for doing work online.


Detailed syllabus available upon request in FAMU International office.

Class time and place:

Depending upon the sanitary situation:

Tues. 08.30–11.25, F.A.M.U. in the projection hall on the first floor, Lažanský palác, Smetanovo nábřeží 2; Praha 1; or: if online on Zoom on Tues. 09.00–10.35


doc. Erik S. Roraback, D.Phil. (Oxon.)

Docent, Habilitation: Charles University, Faculty of Arts & Philosophy; Dir., American Literature & Cultural-Studies, Charles University; FAMU-International, 2003–present; Affiliate Associate Professor, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA, 2019–present; University Visiting Research Fellowship, University of Winchester, Winchester, UK, 2014–23; Visiting Scholar, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA, 2015–19; Visiting Researcher, Universität Konstanz, Konstanz, Germany 2004–14; Visiting Professor, Université de Provence, Aix-en-Provence, France 2005; Doctor of Philosophy (viva voce examiners, Terry Eagleton, St. Catherine’s College, Oxford & Maud Ellmann, King’s College, University of Cambridge) & College Tutor (Magdalen College & Mansfield College), University of Oxford, Oxford, UK; Oxford/École Normal Supérieure Exchange, Paris, France; Rotary Foundation Graduate Ambassadorial Scholar, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia; Bachelor of Arts, Pomona College, Claremont, CA, USA; Pomona College Program (dir., All Souls College) at University College, Oxford, UK


e-mail: or

Individual web site:

Office hours:

After seminar & by appointment; Mon. 14.30–15.30, Room 219c, Faculty of Arts, Charles University, Jana Palacha 1/2, Prague 1

Further information

This course is an elective for all students of this school

Schedule for winter semester 2022/2023:

room 124
Projection Room

(Lažanský palác)
(lecture parallel1)
Date Day Time Tutor Location Notes No. of paralel
Tue 08:30–11:25 Erik Sherman RORABACK Projection Room
Lažanský palác
lecture parallel1

Schedule for summer semester 2022/2023:

The schedule has not yet been prepared

The subject is a part of the following study plans