The Modern Supernatural and the Beginnings of Cinema

Authors: Leeder, Murray

  • 1. Provides a pre-history to the horror film.
  • 2. Examines the trope of cinema as a haunted or supernatural medium, both as it manifested in cinema's earliest years and its return in recent decades.
  • 3. Ties early cinema to the Victorian cultural phenomena of spiritualism, psychology and stage magic, as well as the emergence of X-ray photography.
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  • ISBN 978-1-137-58371-0
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Hardcover $63.00
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  • ISBN 978-1-137-58370-3
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About this book

This study sees the nineteenth century supernatural as a significant context for cinema’s first years. The book takes up the familiar notion of cinema as a “ghostly,” “spectral” or “haunted” medium and asks what made such association possible. Examining the history of the projected image and supernatural displays, psychical research and telepathy, spirit photography and X-rays, the skeletons of the danse macabre and the ghostly spaces of the mind, it uncovers many lost and fascinating connections. The Modern Supernatural and the Beginnings of Cinema locates film’s spectral affinities within a history stretching back to the beginning of screen practice and forward to the digital era. In addition to examining the use of supernatural themes by pioneering filmmakers like Georges Méliès and George Albert Smith, it also engages with the representations of cinema’s ghostly past in Guy Maddin’s recent online project Seances (2016). It is ideal for those interested in the history of cinema, the study of the supernatural and the pre-history of the horror film.

About the authors

Murray Leeder teaches Film Studies at the University of Calgary, Canada, and holds a PhD from Carleton University. He is the author of  Horror Film: A Critical Introduction (forthcoming) and Halloween (2014) and editor of Cinematic Ghosts: Haunting and Spectrality from Silent Cinema to the Digital Era (2015).

Reviews

“The Modern Supernatural and the Beginnings of Cinema is a cornucopia of ideas, arguments and images both scrupulously well researched and highly readable. This original exploration of film history makes for one of the most pleasurable books I’ve read in 2017.” (Alan Price, The Magonia Blog, pelicanist.blogspot.de, May, 2017) 


“Leeder skillfully unpacks the cultural currents that bound cinema’s early development to late-Victorian interest in paranormal phenomena. In rich and revelatory detail, he uncovers cinema’s hidden origins as a technology that spurred the imaginations of a motley crew of avant-gardists, would-be spiritualists, and charlatans who bespeak cinema’s ambivalent entry into the modern era.” (Rob King, Columbia University, USA. Author of The Fun Factory, 2008)

“A timely, original and above all captivating contribution to the field of early cinema studies, as well as to the thinking of the supernatural and, more specifically, spectrality. The ‘haunted screen’ is resoundingly and engagingly historicized, making readers realize that seemingly illuminating metaphors may actually serve to obscure and misdirect.”(Esther Peeren, University of Amsterdam, UK. Author of The Spectral Metaphor, 2014)

“Following the ‘spectral turn’ in recent scholarship, Leeder provocatively re-reads early film history and theory in relation to the historical occult. His engaging new book demonstrates just how much the emerging culture of cinema was haunted by ostensibly mystical concepts and ghostlike apparitions.” (Matthew Solomon, University of Michigan, USA. Author of Disappearing Tricks, 2010)

Table of contents (8 chapters)

  • Introduction

    Leeder, Murray

    Pages 1-19

  • The Haunting of Film Theory

    Leeder, Murray

    Pages 21-44

  • Light and Lies: Screen Practice and (Super-) Natural Magic

    Leeder, Murray

    Pages 45-65

  • The Strange Case of George Albert Smith: Mesmerism, Psychical Research and Cinema

    Leeder, Murray

    Pages 67-95

  • Aesthetics of Co-registration: Spirit Photography, X-rays and Cinema

    Leeder, Murray

    Pages 97-134

Buy this book

eBook $49.99
price for USA (gross)
  • ISBN 978-1-137-58371-0
  • Digitally watermarked, DRM-free
  • Included format: EPUB, PDF
  • ebooks can be used on all reading devices
  • Immediate eBook download after purchase
Hardcover $63.00
price for USA
  • ISBN 978-1-137-58370-3
  • Free shipping for individuals worldwide
  • Usually dispatched within 3 to 5 business days.
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Bibliographic Information

Bibliographic Information
Book Title
The Modern Supernatural and the Beginnings of Cinema
Authors
Copyright
2017
Publisher
Palgrave Macmillan UK
Copyright Holder
The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s)
eBook ISBN
978-1-137-58371-0
DOI
10.1057/978-1-137-58371-0
Hardcover ISBN
978-1-137-58370-3
Edition Number
1
Number of Pages
XII, 209
Number of Illustrations and Tables
20 b/w illustrations, 1 illustrations in colour
Topics