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Realism, Radical Constructivism, and Film History

1 June 2006


As a technology and an art form perceived to be capable of reproducing the world, it has long been thought that the cinema has a natural affinity with reality. In this essay I consider the Realist theory of film history out forward by Robert C. Allen and Douglas Gomery from the perspective of Radical Constructivism. I argue that such a Realist theory cannot provide us with a viable approach to film history as it presents a flawed description of the historian’s relationship to the past. Radical Constructivism offers an alternative model, which requires historians to rethink the nature of facts, the processes involved in constructing historical knowledge, and its relation to the past. Historical poetics, in the light of Radical Constructivism, is a basic model of research into cinema that uses concepts to construct theoretical statements in order to explain the nature, development, and effects of cinematic phenomena.


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