Journal | Salon | Portal (ISSN 1466-4615)

Vol. 7 No. 52, December 2003



Edward S. Small


A Reply to Kinsey



Tammy A. Kinsey

'Let us Never Speak of It?: Edward S. Small's _Direct Theory_'

_Film-Philosophy_, vol. 7 no. 51, December 2003


Tammy A. Kinsey's review of my 1994 book, _Direct Theory: Experimental Film/Video as Major Genre_, is a remarkably insightful, clearly written response. Many readers who have addressed the book over the past nine years simply misunderstood the work's thesis. (In one case, it was employed as the core text for a University of Florida class on 'Direct Theory', but ironically the instructor's online explication of my neologism was, at best, a good example of reception theory's discovered diversity!)


The writing of the book began in the summer of 1990, but academic presses are known for their dense bureaucratic viscosity. Though reprinted in 1999, I was only able to deal with cosmetic corrections. Many of Professor Kinsey's questions and concerns were ones that I myself have repeatedly considered over the past several years. The issue of cognitive science is a curious example. Personally, I am very interested in cognitive science as a methodology for film studies, and I have presented and published papers on this issue. In fact, I am one of the founding members of Joseph D. Anderson's 'Institute for Cognitive Studies in Film and Video', which began when he was my close colleague here at the University of Kansas. Further, during the formal development of my manuscript into a book by Southern Illinois University Press, Anderson's outstanding 1996 book, _The Reality of Illusion: An Ecological Approach to Cognitive Film Theory_, was contracted by the same SIUP editor, James Simmons. Joe and I go back a long time (see p. 74ff of _Direct Theory_ on _Alpha Mandala_), and we almost daily discussed not only my project but his, as we worked together on matters related to the institute (now called the 'Center for Cognitive Studies of the Moving Image' at Thus, my lack of address is paradoxical. In part, I think I sought to keep my semiotic methodology separate from his cognitive science one. On the other hand, during the past year or so I have realized that my concept of 'Technostructure' is remarkably consonant with Saussure's lemma that any change on the plane of the signifier is inextricably interwoven with changes on the plane of the signified. (See 'Beyond Abstract Film', my review of Malcolm Le Grice's _Experimental Cinema in the Digital Age_, in this December 2003 issue of _Film-Philosophy_ for a more detailed address of this insight.) After all, from a cognitive science perspective, words (written or spoken) are largely processed by the brain's left hemisphere, while pictures (moving or still) are largely the province of right-brain mentation.


Also related to 'Beyond Abstract Film' is my book's (dated) failure to address the technostructural changes and exchanges of this really extraordinary current revolution, which will doubtless change the entire corpus of motion pictures as we know them during the course of the current century.


I recall how my 1999 revision of _Direct Theory_ just missed Figgis's _Timecode 2000_, for example. Perhaps Kinsey's kind review will help prompt a second (revised) edition by my publisher, so I can attend to these very matters. For the time being, I am still trying to teach students that unless they realize both the experimental and documentary modes are coordinate with -- not subordinate to -- the fictive narrative feature, they will never really understand them, nor the precious heuristic vantage that derives from their particular marginality.


University of Kansas

Lawrence, Kansas, USA



Copyright © Film-Philosophy 2003



Edward S. Small, 'A Reply to Kinsey', _Film-Philosophy_, vol. 7 no. 52, December 2003 <>.



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