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A philosophical approach to film history

A new book written by an academic at Queen Mary University of London sheds fresh light on the way in which early cinema is understood.

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A photograph of a cinema projector
A photograph of a cinema projector

Fiction and Imagination in Early Cinema: A Philosophical Approach to Film History examines the relationship between fiction and illusion and how early films were perceived by the audience. In particular it explores how the categories of fiction and non-fiction were understood in the period of film history when the present-day generic labels were not yet operational.

A new model for understanding fiction

Author Dr Mario Slugan, Lecturer in Film Studies at Queen Mary, advocates that the period between 1880 and 1915 provides a unique opportunity to understand the notion of fiction overall. The work explores how a new representational medium (film) became employed in the production of fiction, and the crucial role the discourse on imaginary engagement played in this process.

By looking at the production, promotion, exhibition, and reception of early European and American cinema, he investigates why we engage with some films as fictions and others as non-fictions. Dr Slugan also argues that cinema provides a better model for understanding fiction than literature.

Dr Slugan said: “This is the first monograph to combine analytic philosophy and new film history in an effort to argue that the fictional status of a film may change over time, and that numerous pre-1915 films that present-day audiences treat as non-fictions were treated by their contemporaries as fictions and vice versa.”

Dr Mario Slugan joined Queen Mary as a Lecturer in the Department of Film and Television Studies in 2019. “I am very excited to be a part of both one of the best film departments in the UK and the Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences (IHSS). Whereas the former has already established its credentials the latter promises to be a perfect place to continue my interdisciplinary work,” he added.

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