Documentary film first topic in Provost Lecture Series

The 2008 Provost Lecture Series gets under way this week with a talk by author and scholar Dr. Paula Rabinowitz. The theme of this year’s series is "Cloning Terror, Telling Tales, and Surveying the Ruins," examining the dangers of visibility; the ways in which images, texts and performances travel and reproduce; the relationship between their mode of circulation and their content, and why it matters.

In her talk, “Epidemics of Collapse: Notes on Documentary and the Post-Industrial Sublime,” scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday (Jan. 30) in 201 Bowen-Thompson Student Union, Rabinowitz will explore the connections between deindustrialization and documentary film.

Author of Black & White & Noir: America’s Pulp Modernity and They Must Be Represented: The Politics of Documentary,Rabinowitz will explore a transnational poetics of post-industrialism through an analysis of film, photography and poetry, paying special attention to Thomas Lahusen’s “Living Among Ruins: Detroit and Komsomolsk,” Mark Nowak’s “Shut Up Shut Down” and Spike Lee’s “When the Levees Broke.” She will examine how the iconic figures of the struggling worker and the devastated agricultural locations of the Depression era are rearticulated to make sense of contemporary post-industrialism. Looking at multiple transnational sites including China, Russia and Detroit, she explores how these images are “remnants” both of abandonment and of progress.

Rabinowitz is a professor and chair of the English department at the University of Minnesota, where she holds the Samuel Russell Chair in the Humanities. Her ongoing book projects include "The Demotic Ulysses: How Pulp Fiction Brought Modernism to America," which measures the impact of the paperback revolution on censorship, sexuality, audiences and literary taste, and “The End and the Not” which explores recent attempts to reconstitute documentary forms in the era of post-industrialization. She has been a Fulbright Scholar and received a fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation.

Her talk is sponsored by the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society (ICS) with support from the College of Arts and Sciences, the Graduate College, the departments of theatre and film and ethnic studies, the School of Art, the American Culture Studies Program and the Office of the Provost. 

All presentations are free and open to all. For more information, call ICS at 2-0585 or email

January 28, 2008