Faculty Biography - Laurence Knapp
Faculty Biography - Laurence Knapp
B.A. University of Virginia
M.S. Boston University
Ph.D. Northwestern University
Room 2430 Des Plaines
Film matters. It is an integral part of our individual perception and our national consciousness. While some foolishly dismiss it as mere entertainment, a good to be consumed and discarded, cinema is, and has always been, a product and producer of modernity, a mechanical illusion that allows us to recognize our fears, desires, hopes, and dreams. Film communicates with the mind, stirs the heart, activates the senses, and communes with the soul. It is a mirror to ourselves and a window on the external world.
Since receiving my Ph.D. in Film Studies from Northwestern University, I remain fascinated by contemporary, post-classical Hollywood cinema and its influence on genre, authorship, star iconography, and audience comprehension. Unlike older norms, American cinema now communicates and interacts directly with television, the Web, video games, and other electronic media. This affects every facet of filmic expression, from the recent revival of the documentary and the rise of Bollywood to the growing sophistication of animated children's programming. I love to analyze these rapid changes in style, narrative, and culture by using particular authors, stars, or genres as my objects of analysis. The sheer volume of media, accelerated by the rise in DVD sales and web downloads, calls for a teaching strategy that encourages students to develop a historical understanding of older norms (art cinema, Classical Hollywood Cinema, avant-garde/experimental cinema) that have lost their cultural authority or coherence. Film history and aesthetics have become essential tools for a generation defined by consumer electronics and visual culture. At Oakton I've had the opportunity to explore Bollywood cinema, the gangster film as social commentary, Generation X authorship, and the intimate relationship between popular music and cinema.
My dissertation, titled Brian De Palma: Authorship as Survival, is a reevaluation of how film authorship studies functions as an ongoing theoretical discourse. De Palma's intertextual reliance on recognizable directors (Jean-Luc Godard and Alfred Hitchcock in particular) and popular film texts calls for a reincarnated model of authorship studies that acknowledges everyone from the author himself to the ideal spectator, who seems to elude De Palma with each film. While De Palma's work in the 1960s and 1970s can be approached as a coherent textual system, his later work in the 1980s and 1990s-in which he adapted to the conglomeration of the film industry by yielding to the Blockbuster and computer-generated imagery-requires symptomatic models of authorship that include the unconscious, the extra-textual, and the accidental. De Palma's work in the 2000s, particularly Femme Fatale and Redacted, represents an audacious return to the kind of auteurism journalists and theorists took for granted in the 1960s and 1970s.
In addition to being the author of Directed by Clint Eastwood (McFarland & Company, 1996; second edition slated for 2012) and the editor of Brian De Palma: Interviews (University Press of Mississippi, 2003) and Ridley Scott: Interviews (University Press of Mississippi, 2005; second edition slated for 2013), I am editing David Fincher: Interviews for the University Press of Mississippi and researching a book-length study of Mickey Rourke as a deviant star text. Rourke's filmography represents the difficulty of maintaining a celebrity persona as a site of resistance in contemporary Hollywood. He embodies the tyranny of plastic surgery and the steroid-induced hard body, the decline of working-class ethnicity and resentment, the criminalization of aggressive masculinity, and many other latent discourses of gender, race, and sexuality. Rourke's troubled career, particularly his decision to forgo acting for prize fighting in the 1990s, suggests that open, aggressive resistance to the status quo (personified by James Dean's recklessness, Steve McQueen's disinterested gaze, Marlon Brando's quixotic temper, or Al Pacino's hysterical rage) is increasingly harder to achieve without suffering social ridicule or exile. From Rumble Fish to Sin City , Rourke remains a willfully abject figure of excess and masochistic self-destruction, a bad object Hollywood has struggled to erase and/or redeem. Rourke's commitment to the Method is a poignant attempt to stage a one-man Fight Club and resist the commodification and electronic mediation of self in a time of seemingly deferred and virtual existence. Rourke isn't afraid to get dirty or crazy in his masochistic search for the true masculine self.
I am also teaching a Denzel Washington class at Facets Multimedia later this fall. While Mickey Rourke wrestles with every facet of contemporary masculinity, Washington honors the touchstones of full-fledged manliness—namely empathetic mentorship and paternal selflessness and sacrifice—that guarantee the survival of family and community.
Link to a peer-reviewed scholarly article, "Say Hello (and Goodbye) to the Postclassical: Tony Scott and Domino," published in the May 2008 issue of Jump Cut: http://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/jc50.2008/DominoKnapp/