Binghamton Babylon

Voices from the Cinema Department, 1967-1977

By Scott M. MacDonald
Foreword by J. Hoberman

Subjects: Art, Film Studies, History Of Education, Art History, Memoir
Series: SUNY series, Horizons of Cinema
Paperback : 9781438458885, 274 pages, September 2015
Hardcover : 9781438458892, 274 pages, September 2015

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Table of contents

Foreword by J. Hoberman
BINGHAMTON BABYLON (a nonfiction novel)
The Voices
The Weave
    1. Emergence
    2. First Flush
    3. Maelstrom
    4. Collision
    5. New Directions
    6. Younger Colleagues and More Visitors
    7. Politics
    8. Denouncement
Appendix 1: “A Pedagogical Cinema”
Appendix 2: Ken Jacobs by Art Spiegelman

Documents a volatile and productive moment in the development of film studies.


In Binghamton Babylon, Scott M. MacDonald documents one of the crucial moments in the history of cinema studies: the emergence of a cinema department at what was then the State University of New York at Binghamton (now Binghamton University) between 1967 and 1977. The department brought together a group of faculty and students who not only produced a remarkable body of films and videos but went on to invigorate the American media scene for the next half-century. Drawing on interviews with faculty, students, and visiting artists, MacDonald weaves together an engaging conversation that explores the academic excitement surrounding the emergence of cinema as a viable subject of study in colleges and universities. The voices of the various participants—Steve Anker, Alan Berliner, Danny Fingeroth, Hollis Frampton, Ernie Gehr, J. Hoberman, Ralph Hocking, Ken Jacobs, Bill T. Jones, Peter Kubelka, Saul Levine, Camille Paglia, Phil Solomon, Maureen Turim, and many others—tell the story of this remarkable period. MacDonald concludes with an analysis of the pedagogical dimensions of the films that were produced in Binghamton, including Larry Gottheim's Horizons; Jacobs's Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son; Gehr's Serene Velocity; Frampton's Critical Mass; and Nicholas Ray's final film, We Can't Go Home Again.

Scott M. MacDonald is Professor of Film History at Hamilton College. His many books include A Critical Cinema: Interviews with Independent Filmmakers (now in five volumes); Avant-Doc: Intersections of Documentary and Avant-Garde Cinema; and American Ethnographic Film and Personal Documentary: The Cambridge Turn. In 2011 he was named an Academy Film Scholar by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.


"With Binghamton Babylon … Scott MacDonald excavates another fascinating byway of American film history … Weaving together interviews into what he describes as a 'nonfiction novel,' MacDonald fashions a deeply revealing account of the avant-garde in academia. " — Fandor

"This is an important episode in film history and in particular the history of the cinematic avant-garde, and it is exciting to have so many voices from the time assembled in one volume. A terrific book!" — Dana Polan, Cinema Studies, New York University

"Binghamton Babylon is an enormously important contribution to film, video, and media historiography. " — David Sterritt, author of The Cinema of Clint Eastwood: Chronicles of America