Seeing Films Politically

By Mas'ud Zavarzadeh

Subjects: Film Studies
Series: SUNY series in Radical Social and Political Theory
Paperback : 9780791405277, 267 pages, February 1991
Hardcover : 9780791405260, 267 pages, March 1991

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Table of contents


1. Tales of Intelligibility

2. Pleasure, Resistance, and the Ludic Postmodern

3. The Politics of Reality

4. The Cultural Politics of Intimacy

5. Change, History, Nostalgia

6. The Center and the Margin

7. Ideology, Desire, and Gender

8. The Political Economy of Art: Ingmar Bergman's Fanny and Alexander




In this bold political rethinking of contemporary film theory, Zavarzadeh overturns the dominant concepts that fetishize film as a work of art or simple entertainment. He demonstrates how aesthetic notions obscure the ideological effects produced by viewing films, particularly the production of the spectator as the subject of social class. Seeing films, he argues, is part of the political struggle over cultural intelligibilities, subjectivities, and representations. One of the book's analytical innovations is its concept of renarrating: a reading strategy that displays the logic of the film, showing that it is not so much a unique aesthetic articulation as it is the common logic of the dominant ideology. In a series of brilliant readings of recent films, the book constructs a critical space for the reader to not only see the culturally visible tale of the film—the one that legitimates the existing reality, the status quo—but also to see the other, suppressed tale that (de)narrates the social contradictions arising from exploitation and class rule.

Mas'ud Zavarzadeh was educated in Middle Eastern, European, and American universities and teaches critical theory at Syracuse University. He has written on postmodern critical theory and is the author of Mythopoeic Reality and coeditor of Theory, Pedagogy, Politics.


"In a big league along with Brecht and Barthes. " — Ernest Callenbach, Editor, Film Quarterly

"An eye-opening book that bridges the gap between the abstractions of radical theoretical perspectives and the concrete details of contemporary culture. " — Roger S. Gottlieb, Editor, Western Marxism

"Zavarzadeh's stance is quite original and distinct. He has made me see the films with fresh eyes, and the approach is applicable to works of popular culture in general. " — Robin Wood, Author, Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan