Election Reading Recommendation

musserWe often forget that previous election campaigns juggled and were shaped by new media forms just like our own, albeit with different “contraptions.” Politicking and Emergent Media, US Presidential Elections of the 1890s, by Yale American Studies/Cinema Studies professor, Charles Musser, is a fascinating read about the election campaigns of the 1890s (and I mean read–in sense that as erudite as it is it’s very readable).  In those days the Democratic party was the less adventursome one in terms of media–it was comfortably ensconced in newspaper formats.  It was the Republicans who experimented more with new media that included the steriopticon (what’s that?) and later motion pictures, telephones, and phonographs.  Writes Lisa Gitelman (New York University), “Charles Musser shows how screens first entered American politics. Whether they are true politics junkies or frothing critics of America’s quadrennial horse race, readers will be tickled by the resemblances between presidential campaigns then and now. This is media history of the finest kind, rendered by one of our most accomplished scholars of early cinema.”

I like Jeffrey Alexander’s observation, writing about the book. “It turns out that technology has been newly emerging over the past three centuries, and the performance of politics has long been deeply transformed as a result.”

If you’re multitasking as you listen to the endless election and post-election punditry, consider opting for this book in your lap rather than just another screen.

Update on Film and Television Databases

Penn Libraries has recently re-subscribed to two important current film and television databases, the Film & Television Literature Index and The FIAF International Index to Film Periodicals, complimenting ongoing subscriptions to Film Index International (British Film Institute) and the AFI (American Film Institute) Catalog.  The title similarities makes it all a bit confusing so here’s a little rundown. poptv

The most centrally situated database is Film & Television Literature Index, which is now, conveniently, an EBSCO product.  On the EBSCO platform users are met with a familiar interface and can search related files at the same time, namely (but not only) Communication Source insuring very solid interdisciplinary coverage of their topic. The file includes over 400 scholarly journals as well as non-peer reviewed glossy film magazines. Subjects covered are wide-ranging–film and television theory, preservation and restoration, screenwriting, production, cinematography, technical aspects of film and television, entertainment law, and film and television reviews. While our subscription is for the index and abstracts only, full text for a lion’s share of results will be just a click away via PennText which connects to hundreds of source files (Sage, Wiley, etc.).  While the bulk of material in F&TLI comes from the 70s to the present, articles from as far back as 1913 may surface.

The FIAF International Index to Film Periodicals brings together contributions from experts around the world dedicated to film preservation, cataloging and documentation. The main database contains citations from more than 345 periodicals, offering  in-depth coverage of the worlds foremost academic and popular film journals. In addition to indexing film periodicals, this resource also contains several other databases: the International Index to Television Periodicals (1979-1998), Treasures from the Film Archives, the FIAF Affiliates’ Publications, the Documentation Collections, which describe the holdings of film archives and libraries around the world, as well as and FIAFs Reference Works, which includes keyword-searchable access to 5 works: Critical Ideas in Television Studies, Encyclopedia of Early Cinema, Film Analysis: A Norton Reader, Oxford History of World Cinema, and Routledge Companion to Film Studies. A strength of FIAF is its coverage of animation journals and European film magazines.

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Then there is BFI’s Film Index International which provides unmatched coverage of literature on international film and film personalities. Its Summary of Film and Television (SIFT) database is collated by the BFI and reaches back 70 years. It includes bibliographies that, unlike freely available resources such as the Internet Movie Database (IMDB), point to scholarly and academic work in the field of Cinema Studies. Entries include full cast and crew lists, searchable plot synopses, filmographies, biographical details, important dates, awards and prizes, and thorough bibliographies, with citations for original reviews from the time of a film’s release as well as interviews, historical surveys and obituaries. Includes works of films from blockbusters to art house films from the present day back to early cinema and the first silent movies. This, more than any other comparable index, is the place for world cinema (and television)–European, Asian, Latin American, and African.

If your interest is feature-length films produced in America or financed by American production companies the AFI Catalog of Feature Films is a great database for authoritative information on cast, crew, plot summaries, subjects, genres and historical notes. So far it includes nearly 60,000 American feature-length films and 17,000 short films produced from 1893-2011.

You will often find overlap in these files but they are varied enough that it’s usually worth checking into more than one.  And we have many more film and television resources to recommend than these four databases!  Check out these Research Guides if you want to get an even fuller picture.

Cinema Studies 

Historic Film Archives Online

Online film archives

Introduction to Film History (Pre-1945)

Hollywood Film Industry

Television Studies

Wrapping up with a human resource is in order. Meet Penn Libraries’ very own Cinema Studies Librarian, Charles Cobine. You can reach him at:

cobine@pobox.upenn.edu or @cobine

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209 Van Pelt