Books

Metacinema

Oxford University Press, 2021

Foreword by Robert Pippin

“LaRocca (a documentary filmmaker and prolific author) probably said, ‘I told you so!’ when Facebook changed its name to Meta in late 2021. Inspired by the ways in which meta has become a catchphrase for describing many elements of popular culture, LaRocca has put together a very fine collection of 14 essays (ten new, four previously published) that examine ways in which films can refer to themselves, reflexively, and function as metacinema. Drawing on the work of Stanley Cavell and other film philosophers, the essays, taken together, hold that though all films reflect on cinema in meta ways, some are especially deft in revealing the conditions of their own occurrence and of cinema more broadly. The first several essays (and the introduction) provide deep considerations of the bounds and possible definitions of metacinema, among them a usefully schematic contribution from Daniel Yacavone. Later essays examine how particular films are meta and contribute to a greater understanding of reflexivity in cinema. Case studies include art films such as Holy Motors, Hollywood classics such as Rear Window, documentaries, and experimental works. Theoretically sophisticated and deeply invested in close textual analysis, this book will appeal most to those with an interest in philosophical approaches to cinema.”

— Daniel Herbert, Associate Professor; Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Film, Television, and Media, University of Michigan

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty.


“We all know meta when we see it, but up until now few have attempted to define it. This terrific book, comprising essays from both established and emerging scholars, is a welcome corrective to that oversight, and a vital addition to contemporary film and media theory.”

— Catherine Wheatley, Reader in Film and Visual Culture, King’s College London


The Thought of Stanley Cavell and Cinema

Bloomsbury, 2020

Foreword by Thomas Elsaesser

“A brilliant collection of original essays by major figures in the field. The genius of Cavell’s writing is in sharp focus throughout—likewise the continued provocation of The World Viewed and its successor books and essays.”

— Michael Fried, J. R. Herbert Boone Professor Emeritus of Humanities and Art History, The Johns Hopkins University

“Stanley Cavell argued that film exists in a state of philosophy. Part of what he meant by this was that thinking about a film is a way of doing philosophy. That has been his influential and most controversial claim. The authors in this collection explore what he might have meant in ways more variegated, thoughtful, original, and illuminating than anything I have seen before. The Thought of Stanley Cavell and Cinema, exemplary in its clarity and carefulness, is a watershed both in our understanding of Cavell and of film itself.”

— Robert Pippin, Evelyn Stefansson Nef Distinguished Service Professor, The University of Chicago

“[…] LaRocca celebrates the 50th anniversary of the publication of The World Viewed by gathering essays from 14 philosophers, film and literature scholars, and theorists in the US, UK, Australia, France, and the Netherlands. The contributors all manifest the Cavellian influence. Though not the first collection devoted to Cavell’s cinema writings nor likely the last, this book will be valuable to those interested in philosophy, film studies, literature, and US culture.”

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers.

—D. W. Rothermel, Professor Emeritus, California State University, Chico, CHOICE review

The Bloomsbury Anthology of Transcendental Thought

Bloomsbury, 2017

“In this brilliantly edited and introduced anthology, David LaRocca presents us with the broadest selection of authors, philosophers, visionaries, and artists, who have expressed the simple, difficult truths of the transcendental in the most profound and varied of ways.”

— Hent de Vries, Russ Family Professor in the Humanities and Philosophy, Johns Hopkins University; Director of The School of Criticism and Theory, Cornell University

“Edited with great erudition and care by David LaRocca, the collection will be an indispensable handbook for anybody researching the heritage of that tradition.”

— Branka Arsic, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University in the City of New York

“[This] volume is more than an overview of a field of study—it is participating in the creation of one.”

— Todd May, Class of 1941 Memorial Professor of the Humanities, Clemson University

“LaRocca assumes more the guise of a curator than an editor, and provides us with a veritable Kunstkammer, that is, a cabinet of curiosities, a theater of memory, a world theater of philosophers, artists, and writers from all ages who have addressed the transcendental as a constant and elemental aspect of philosophy and life.”

— Gregg Lambert, Dean’s Professor of Humanities, Syracuse University

“A splendid collection of some of the deepest thoughts of which humans are capable. The book is full of insights and surprises.”

— John Lachs, Centennial Professor of Philosophy, Vanderbilt University

A Power to Translate the World

Dartmouth College Press, 2015

“Emerson was always a transnational thinker, and in this respect as in others, we have yet to catch up with him. This fine, wide-ranging volume will be of considerable help. These essays bring one to Emerson from, and allow one to travel out from his texts towards, a variety of geographical, cultural, and disciplinary regions, often in surprising ways.”

— Russell B. Goodman, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, University of New Mexico

“The essays gathered in this superb collection testify to the centrality of the historical and political to [Emerson’s] thinking. Indeed, Emerson here emerges as a truly international writer who himself thought in a setting that far exceeded the boundaries of the national.”

— Branka Arsic, Professor of English, Columbia University in the City of New York

“[The book] invigorates by means of sudden discoveries, cross-connections, overlaps, gaps, as each of these ‘prismatic’ essays reflects the question afresh.”

— Laura Dassow Walls, William P. and Hazel B. White Professor of English, University of Notre Dame

“A timely, provocative conversation seeking further to characterize Emerson’s bearing toward the world beyond the US.”

— Christopher Hanlon, Professor of English, Arizona State University

For this title in the “Re-Mapping the Transnational” series, LaRocca (College at Cortland, SUNY) and Miguel-Alfonso (Univ. of Castilla-La Mancha, Spain) have gathered 17 essays on Ralph Waldo Emerson and his relationship with the literatures across, and between, national boundaries. As a product of the 19th century, Emerson was very much interested in international cultural relationships. This is evident in the essays detailing his interest in Great Britain, Germany, Italy, and India. Yet, as the books in the Dartmouth series propose, the concept of the “transnational” attenuates the role of imperialism and globalism in the critical discussion, cf., essays detailing Emerson’s influence on Maurice Maeterlinck, Vicente Huidobro, Rainer Maria Rilke, and others. For the most part, the essays here achieve both perspectives as they uncover the international influence on, and by, Emerson, and establish Emerson’s transnational influence on later literature and philosophy. The essays are arranged in four categories: “Emerson beyond Borders in His Time,” “Emerson and Global Modernity,” “Emerson and the Far East,” and “Emerson and the Near East.” Although these essays are genealogical and trace influences, they simultaneously call into question origins, intention, and cause and effect. As this collection attests, Emerson is as important in an age of globalization as he was in an age of colonization.

Summing Up: ** Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.

— R. T. Prus for Choice Reviews, Professor of English, Southeastern Oklahoma State University

A Power to Translate the World brings together the expertise of established and emerging Emerson scholars to offer seventeen new readings of both “Emerson’s incorporation of international culture and his effect on international culture” (24). Convinced that Emerson can be understood only with the help of an approach that extends beyond the explanatory framework of the nation, the volume’s contributors challenge and refine recent transnational and global interpretations of the Emersonian canon. […] Refreshingly skeptical about the heuristic potential of the transnational as an analytical tool, LaRocca and Miguel-Alfonso advance something of a post-transnational argument in resurrecting the “perhaps old-fashioned” category of the “international” (6.) […] In addition to reviving the international as a category, LaRocca and Miguel-Alfonso also make a plea for the rehabilitation of influence studies, seeking to extend its scope from the study of “direct evidence of reading” to a more conjectural engagement with less obvious forms of intellectual cross-pollination […] 

— Tim Sommer for Emerson Society Papers (vol. 28, no. 1), University of Heidelberg


Emerson’s English Traits and the Natural History of Metaphor

Bloomsbury, 2013

One of Emerson’s “most astute interpreters . . . LaRocca consistently challenges the limits of academic categorization.”

“Rather than argument, the book is a smart, exciting demonstration of Emersonian thinking and a way to approach his work by its affiliations—to other Emerson texts and to texts by others—and ‘to make allusions coalesce.’

“Learned, daring, and lively, LaRocca’s book is the most provocative treatment of Emerson this year.”

— Robert D. Habich, Professor of English, Ball State University; Past President of the Ralph Waldo Emerson Society; Former Editor of the Emerson Society Papers, from American Literary Scholarship (2013) 3-21

“This immensely learned, deeply thoughtful and far-ranging book helps re-situate Emerson in his own time, and in ours. More than just a work of scholarship, it rises to the level of philosophical investigation. It is also witty, playful and, in its own strange way, original.”

— Phillip Lopate, editor of Writing New York and The Art of the Personal Essay, Director of the Graduate Program in Nonfiction, and Professor, Columbia University

“In this elegantly written, scrupulously researched book, David LaRocca has convincingly demonstrated that, rather than locating a restricted area of inquiry, Natural History constitutes the grounding precondition for Emersonian thinking. [. . .]”

— Donald E. Pease, Professor of English and the Ted and Helen Geisel Third Century Professor in the Humanities, Dartmouth College

“David LaRocca treats Emerson’s English Traits with the philosophical seriousness and sophistication the book has long deserved, but never before so richly received. [. . .] This is a valuable contribution to the re-assessment of Emerson’s most neglected work, and a distinctive example of creative hermeneutical engagement.”

— Neal Dolan, Associate Professor of English, University of Toronto

“In this wonderful book, David LaRocca illuminates Emerson’s mind by, in effect, pursuing his methods. LaRocca’s treatment of English Traits is no mere academic summary. [. . .] With a vast range of reference, running from Wittgenstein to Darwin and from Coleridge to Montaigne, and an engagingly ‘album’-like structure, the book traces Emersonian connections between topics as remote as the origins of evolutionary theory, the making of commonplace books and the rise of the American anti-slavery movement. It offers a glitteringly many-sided examination of the evolution of Emerson’s deeply creative mind in its efforts to arrive at an understanding, not only of England, but also of the nascent American culture that it was in process of helping to form.” 

— Bernard Harrison, Emeritus E. E. Ericksen Professor of Philosophy, University of Utah and Emeritus Professor of the Humanities, University of Sussex

“With this study, LaRocca emerges as a theorist as well as an important scholar of Emerson in an age when ‘theory’ has become a footnote. His recent edited volume Estimating Emerson (Choice, Nov 2013, 51-1329), which offers cultural/philosophical reflections on Emerson, and his essay “Performative Inferentialism: A Semiotic Ethics” (published in the February 2013 issue of the journal Liminalities) testify to this. The present study stands alone in its treatment of the little-studied English Traits (1856), though LaRocca pays due diligence to the studies that have preceded his. His key concern is how to read Emerson historically (in terms of 19th-century metaphors of natural science) while appreciating him ‘transcendentally’ (as a method of thinking in the 21st). This study performs the Emersonian inheritance of analogy, of seeing the one in the many. In studying English Traits, LaRocca looks at journals, figures, sentences, and paragraphs occurring throughout his essays, and offers reflections on Emerson and the ‘nature’ of metaphor. This study should be read by those who think themselves comfortable with Emerson, and by those who feel abandoned by theory. Mostly, though, this should be read by those who are in interested in figuring the thought that lies beyond reach.”

Summing Up:  Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.

—  R. T. Prus, Professor and Chair of English, Humanities, and Languages, Southeastern Oklahoma State University

“In this finely crafted and highly original piece of scholarship, LaRocca not only draws attention to one of the most neglected texts in Emerson’s oeuvre, he also presents an extended and insightful meditation on the nature of metaphor and the formation of cultural identity. Like a true florilegium, the collection of remarks continuously surprises—but not with gimmicks, rather with the kind of uncanny observations the method of criticism and arrangement is meant to illuminate. Combining literary sensibility with philosophical acumen, Emerson’s English Traits and the Natural History of Metaphor also prompts urgent and serious reflection on the relation between literature, philosophy and natural science more generally. Its publication is, therefore, as timely as Nietzsche’s Untimely Meditations, and should be greeted with just as much applause.”

— Mario von der Ruhr, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, Swansea University, Wales, and Associate Editor of the journal Philosophical Investigations

“In making a new case for the philosophical sophistication of English Traits, LaRocca has achieved his own Emersonian feat, the creation of a new ‘atmosphere in which to think’.”

— Jacob Risinger, Assistant Professor of English, The Ohio State University

“I imagine David LaRocca having fun composing this book—not because it is in any way frivolous or frolicsome (chapter 1 is titled ‘More Prone to Melancholy’) but because it is an engaging experiment in criticism, an attempt to perform literary study in such a way as to bring its subject to life. [. . . A ] florilegium such as Emerson’s, such as LaRocca’s, emits a kind of ‘bouquet,’ and ‘atmosphere in which to think.’ The patient reader, the reader willing to make ‘interpretive shifts,’ a reader capable of ‘loyalty to the present’ and of reinforcing ‘an openness to the complexity of emerging phenomena,’ will find that atmosphere by turns exhilarating, confusing, enticing, and drowsy with the hum of bees. Nevertheless, the reader must grant that removing Emerson’s writing from a museum and placing it in a florilegium does wonders for its constitution.”

— T. S. McMillin, Professor of English, Oberlin College


Movies with Stanley Cavell in Mind

Bloomsbury, 2021

Foreword by Sandra Laugier

“This volume pushes Cavellian scholarship forward, showing that the value of Cavell’s work lies not simply in understanding it but in applying it. By extending the philosopher’s methods to an exciting range of international and contemporary films, the chapters compose a timely consideration of what it is to read a film, and to read a film generously.”

— Kyle Stevens, Assistant Professor of Film Studies, Appalachian State University

“Stanley Cavell is, to my mind, the best thinker for helping us account for the power of the film experience, and the fourteen chapters collected here provide ample reason for understanding the importance of Cavell for the study of film. All of the contributors to this wonderful, collective enterprise—brought together by David LaRocca—have in a similar way encountered him and his work. Whether they are revisiting films Cavell loved or taking up the invitation to explore new films, they reveal the importance of Cavell’s writing and method.”

— Sandra Laugier, Professor of Philosophy, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne


Inheriting Stanley Cavell

Bloomsbury, 2020

“Inheriting Stanley Cavell, beautifully edited by David LaRocca, is so much more than a gathering of reminiscences and testimonials. So many of the pieces in the volume prove gripping, and they cumulatively transformed my sense of what Cavell had accomplished. This volume makes a strong case for the revolution that Cavell’s extraordinary philosophic sensibility, powerful presence as a teacher, and wide-range of concerns brought about in North American philosophy. For many of the contributors, Cavell not only revived their faith in philosophy, but showed them what it meant to be alive in their feelings and thinking. He demonstrated, not only in The Claim of Reason but in his astonishing exploration of films, Shakespearean tragedies, and Wittgenstein, Emerson, and Thoreau, that the road back to ordinary language criticism was open, and our best hope for restoring value to humanistic study. The collection is also impressive for its decision to include dissenting voices.”

— George Toles, Distinguished Professor of English, Theatre, Film & Media, University of Manitoba

“The welcoming tone rightly identified by the editor as one genius of Stanley Cavell’s exacting style has demonstrably been answered by this timely volume–and in just the right blend of reminiscence, reflection, and fresh testing. The intellectual heritage proposed, and so luminously proven, across these pages–convening a lineage of distinguished readers in their role, as always, of interlocutors–honors the balance of intimacy and reach in Cavell’s influential philosophical writing: a style of thought inseparable from the searching prose that gave, that gives, it shape.”

— Garrett Stewart, James O. Freedman Professor of Letters, University of Iowa

“In moods ranging from the elegiac to the exuberant to the contentious, the essays collected here remember Cavell and his work, put it to further use, and engage with it critically. Together their authors compose a conversation that amounts to what Cavell once described philosophy as being–an education for grownups–in which accomplished, mature thinkers continually seek their better selves, amidst the plights and possibilities of culture.”

 — Richard Eldridge, Charles and Harriett Cox McDowell Professor of Philosophy, Swarthmore College

“The voices gathered in this collection, each finding a different balance between the claims of memory, sympathy, and critique, together illuminate the relation between Stanley Cavell’s life and his writings, and disclose an unattained but attainable future for philosophy to which we all might be attracted.” 

— Stephen Mulhall, Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy, New College, University of Oxford

“David LaRocca has gathered together some of the world’s foremost scholars of Stanley Cavell’s work for this terrific volume of essays responding to Cavell’s philosophy. Collating reprints of groundbreaking essays and original contributions, the book offers wonderful insight into the breadth and depth of Cavell’s influence and features a beautifully detailed and lucid introduction by LaRocca that interweaves the various strands of Cavell’s philosophy and their legacies. This is without doubt a definitive body of responses to Cavell’s work: a must-read for anyone interested in Cavell’s work, whatever discipline they are approaching from, and whatever their level of specialism.” 

— Catherine Wheatley, Lecturer in Film Studies, King’s College London

The Philosophy of War Films

University Press of Kentucky, 2015

“A significant contribution to not only the philosophy of the war film but also to philosophy of film itself.”

“The essays are fresh and surprising.”

“Written by an outstanding array of international scholars.”

“Important and timely.”

“Connecting the reality of war with the art of filmmaking.”

“Rich and deeply thought-out consideration of the representation of war on film.”

“[LaRocca] makes many insightful observations, especially over the relation between the truth of war and the images of war on screen.” 

“This is a serious book. […] and I highly recommend it.”


“LaRocca offers a synoptic anthology of essays that brings to our attention how war films can provoke contemplation and meditation because of the ways that such films inevitably focus on the mortality and vulnerability of human beings. The essays, written by an outstanding array of international scholars, work out various ways in which the genre can compel our thinking to become philosophical. This collection of essays constitute a significant contribution to not only the philosophy of the war film, but also to philosophy of film itself.”

— Daniel Flory, Montana State University

“This volume offers rich and deeply thought-out consideration of the representation of war on film and of the ways filmic and now digital representation is deeply entangled with how we experience and think about war (up close or at a distance) in actual life. The book reaches back in film history but is especially provocative on war and its representation in the last decade—the situation we are living with now. The essays are fresh and surprising, showing the whole subject of war and film to be far more interesting, complex, and disturbing than in the standard thinking about war genre films that we are used to.”

— Charles Warren, Boston University

“War is a pervasive condition, a constitutive part of human experience. The war film genre is extensive and multiform. It is no surprise, then, that war films are provocations to philosophical thought. This important and timely edited collection has an extensive introduction that seeks answers to vital questions: What sort of a phenomenon is a war film? What do we think we mean when we speak of a war film? What are war films for? Can war as such be represented by film? The essays that follow illuminate myriad ethical, aesthetic, epistemological and ontological issues as they related to a broad range of representations of war.”

— Guy Westwell, Queen Mary University of London

“The philosophical reflections compiled in this book look at war films from a variety of perspectives. I commend editor David LaRocca for bringing together scholars who each, in different ways, engage the interdisciplinary mission of the inquiry into how war is depicted on screen. What is the philosophy of film, and then, of war films specifically? Do war films harbor a philosophy — of death, violence, love … — or does philosophy enrich the understanding of the cinematic of war? The Philosophy of War Films explores these questions and many more, connecting the reality of war with the art of filmmaking.”

— Mieke Bal, University of Amsterdam


The Philosophy of Charlie Kaufman

University Press of Kentucky, 2011; paperback edition with new preface by the editor, 2019

“How gratifying it is to have The Philosophy of Charlie Kaufman available in paperback. David LaRocca, the editor of this extraordinary collection, has brought together a distinguished group of contributors from a number of disciplines—political theorists, philosophers, classicists, theologians, professors of literature, filmmakers, and poets. The diversity of background ensures a wide range of stimulating response. Kaufman, whether working as a director or screenwriter, is undeniably an auteur, and one of the book’s many achievements is to suggest how decisive and significant the artistic contribution of a screenwriter can be. The questions that propel Kaufman’s fictions are overtly and demandingly philosophical, but everything Kaufman does with his existential forays is laced with wit, and extravagant mischief. LaRocca’s collection also demonstrates how Kaufman’s work is implicitly in dialogue with the ideas of Stanley Cavell. Kaufman’s thinking about romantic relationships in terms of repetition and renewal, his preoccupation with the mystery of the film medium’s ways of making and unmaking the world, and his beleaguered quest for moral perfectionism all exhibit kinship with Cavell’s approach to the beautifully tumultuous human situation.”

— George Toles, Distinguished Chair of Film, University of Manitoba, author of Paul Thomas Anderson & A House Made of Light: Essays on the Art of Film, and screenwriting partner of Guy Maddin

“An important volume, full of insights into one of the great philosophical screenwriters of recent times, if not of all time.”

— Joshua Landy, Andrew B. Hammond Professor of French, Professor of Comparative, Literature, and co-director of the Literature and Philosophy Initiative at, Stanford University, author of Philosophy as Fiction: Self, Deception, and Knowledge in Proust and How To Do Things With Fictions

“This rich and varied collection of papers helps us to better understand Kaufman’s wonderful films and explore the themes, philosophical and otherwise, that they contain. The section on the not-to-be-missed Synecdoche, New York, is especially rewarding. Read it and you will want to watch the film again and again.”

— C. D. C. Reeve, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and contributor to Christopher Grau’s edited collection on Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

“I can’t think of a contemporary filmmaker who is more philosophical, and more deserving of philosophical attention, than Charlie Kaufman. Sometimes—especially when I’m in the middle of one—I think I’d like to spend every minute of every day watching Kaufman’s wildly creative, deliriously destabilizing, and profound and at times beautiful films. Sadly, that is not possible. But reading these essays may well be the next best thing. This frequently fascinating book will help audiences grasp and appreciate the full richness of what is to be found in the work of contemporary cinema’s most madcap metaphysician.”

— Troy Jollimore, Professor of Philosophy, California State University, Chico, Guggenheim fellow, author of Love’s VisionOn Loyalty, and Syllabus of Errors: Poems


On Emerson

Wadsworth Philosophers Series, 2003

On Emerson, like other titles in the Wadsworth Philosopher’s Series, offers a concise, yet comprehensive, introduction to this philosopher’s most important ideas. Presenting the most important insights of well over a hundred seminal philosophers in both the Eastern and Western traditions, the Wadsworth Philosophers Series contains volumes written by scholars noted for their excellence in teaching and for their well-versed comprehension of each featured philosopher’s major works and contributions. These titles have proven valuable in a number of ways. Serving as standalone texts when tackling a philosopher’s original sources or as helpful resources for focusing philosophy students’ engagements with these philosopher’s often conceptually daunting works, these titles have also gained extraordinary popularity with a lay readership and quite often serve as “refreshers” for philosophy instructors.”


The Geschlecht Complex

Bloomsbury, 2022

Afterword by Emily Apter

“Bristling with intellectual energy, The Geschlecht Complex, brings together a number of brilliantly original essays and a carefully curated sample of theoretical excerpts in its exploration of the resonances and affordances of a singularly untranslatable notion. The Geschlecht Complex is many things: it is both syllabus and seminar, both a joyful intellectual exchange and a virtuoso homage to the examples of such thinkers/readers as Cassin, Cavell, Apter, and Derrida. Most of all, it is an exuberant performance of the key inspiration driving the thinking of the untranslatable: the conviction that the untranslatable is at once generated and redeemed by passionate ventures of translation-across genres, media, bodies, languages, and disciplines. In all these transpositions, this volume succeeds marvelously.

— Pieter Vermeulen, Associate Professor of American and Comparative Literature, University of Leuven, Belgium

Geschlecht by any other name: that multifarious and ultimately untranslatable German word typifying in this volume a complexity and a syndrome alike — its cultural semantics both vertical for generational kindred and horizontal for genre or kind; lineage on the one hand, typology on the other; now general species or genus, now specified gender. With this book’s erudite roundtable, we are invited to the second, collectively-edited installment of a productive—make that generative—seminar once convened to rethink the ramifications of such irresolvable inner difference: less as a definitional crux than as a blocked crossing, where impasse becomes surplus when confronted at the disciplinary interface of philology and philosophy, rhetoric and ontology. Giving new reach to trans-theory, the performative yield of category-hesitation in these essays is abundant, subtle, and bracing.

— Garrett Stewart, James O. Freedman Professor of Letters, University of Iowa

The Geschlecht Complex is a rare and undoubtedly important book in that it treats categorization as both problem and necessity for the production of knowledge. Indeed, utilizing and developing the notion of the ‘uncategorizable’ as an analytical tool, it collects a multitude of contemporary problems into a stereoscopic perspective (albeit in a non-unitary manner and necessarily hesitant of its own limits) on the age-old aesthetic problem of the sublime and the monstrous—and furthermore, on the ontological consequences of those seemingly impossible categories.

— Isak Hyltén-Cavallius, Chief Editor, Tidskrift för Litteraturvetenskap/Swedish Journal of Literary Studies, Lund University, Sweden, and Associate Professor of Literary Studies. Linnæus University, Växjö, Sweden


The Philosophy of Documentary Film

Rowman & Littlefield, 2017

Foreword by Timothy Corrigan

“This anthology is a gem! … Get it for yourself and see! Bringing together documentary filmmakers, philosophers, and film theorists, this volume will be an important resource for all of those who are interested in this important genre of filmmaking, be they students, professors, scholars, or just serious film viewers.”

— Thomas E. Wartenberg, Mount Holyoke College

The Philosophy of Documentary Film is a welcomed addition to the scholarly study of a mischievous praxis—one that continues to expand, contract, merge, and mangle in its attempts to explore versions of “real life” on film. Periodic, thoughtful reflection on this rogue form is necessary, and this book provides it. The leading lights of nonfiction film scholarship are well represented, and especially pleasing to me, as a documentary filmmaker, is the fact that documentarians have also been enlisted to write about our craft. Furthermore, just for good measure, The Dogma 95 Manifesto is included as both a beacon and dangerous shoal to filmmakers exploring the choppy waters around the fiction/nonfiction whirlpool. Great idea!”

— Ross McElwee, Director, Sherman’s March, Bright Leaves; Professor of the Practice of Filmmaking, Harvard University

“An impressive selection, including some of the most interesting voices in documentary thought.”

— Jonathan Kahana, University of California, Santa Cruz

“A marvelous collection that promises to inform the teaching of nonfiction film for years to come.”

— J. P. Sniadecki, Director, The Iron Ministry, Northwestern University

“Timely. Vital. Engaging. An essential companion to any thinking about documentary cinema. David LaRocca is especially attuned not just to the voices at the heart of theoretical debates but, to my liking, also to those who push out into the practice and craft of documentary filmmaking.”

— Paul Cronin, School of the Visual Arts

“This is the collection of essays on documentary film that I have been waiting for. It brings together many of the best classic pieces on documentary theory and practice and a thrilling assortment of new essays by philosophers, films scholars devoted to aesthetic issues and close reading, and documentary filmmakers who teach. The writing throughout is of the highest order, and the promise of genuine (as opposed to tinkertoy) philosophical inquiry is amply kept. LaRocca has done an exemplary job of editing, and his lengthy overview essay which serves as the volume’s introduction is incisive and indispensable.”

— George Toles, University of Manitoba

“These works in hand are contemporary perspectives on, for me, the most vibrant practice in contemporary cinema. They call us to think carefully and seriously not only about the truth claims and strategies of specific documentary films but also about why documentaries are so central to our age.”

— Timothy Corrigan, University of Pennsylvania

“With the pervasive and facile use of digital manipulation of images in public and private communications, few questions are more important than the question raised by this richly rewarding book—‘What is real and what is fake?’”

— Bill Jersey, winner of two Peabodys, Emmys, and Oscar nominations

“From considerations of Plato to Cavell and well beyond, these memorable essays fruitfully explore both truth and make-believe in documentary film, as well as the manifold challenges of discerning the elusive differences between them.”

— Lawrence Rhu, University of South Carolina

Estimating Emerson

Bloomsbury, 2013

“This is the definitive anthology on America’s premier man of letters-Ralph Waldo Emerson.”

— Cornel West, Class of 1943 University Professor of Professor, Princeton University

“Quite apart from the usefulness of having all these important essays handy, readers may also toy with this simple question: when writing about a writer’s work, over the years, have critics gotten better or have they gotten worse?”

— William H. Gass, David May Distinguished University Professor in the Humanities, Washington University in St Louis

“David LaRocca’s Estimating Emerson is an essential anthology of criticism. Every lover of Emerson will be tempted to read deeply in this volume, which offers a rich spectrum of reactions to the Emersonian genius, from Emerson’s own day to the present. It’s not just a delightful book, but a necessary one.”

— David Mikics, John and Rebecca Moores Professor of English, University of Houston, USA, and Editor of The Annotated Emerson

LaRocca’s anthology, Estimating Emerson, offers a unique invitation to essential knowledge for anybody interested in America’s sense of itself for the better part of the last two centuries. In our literary and philosophical culture Emerson’s writings and reputation have cast the longest shadow. How Emerson is perceived amounts to the most direct route to who we are or who we wish, or seem, to be. Even those who want to reject Emerson’s legacy will welcome this volume since it gathers a decisive quorum of the most significant anti-Emersonian voices as well as the most enthusiastic and the most discerning. The inheritability of this unavoidable patrimony poses challenges of reading not only Emerson’s remarkable writing. It also entails reading the writing of his remarkable readers who have created many memorable versions of the so-called sage or Lucifer of Concord, depending on whom you consult-Poe or Hawthorne, Updike or Cavell, among many others. LaRocca has gathered together the most comprehensive one-volume collection of first-rate writers responding to Emerson since such reckonings became necessary.”

— Lawrence F. Rhu, Professor of English, University of South Carolina

“This is a GREAT idea, and it is amazing to me that no such book already exists! It is a much-needed anthology, and will be welcome for those who want to get a sense, in a single volume, of the breadth and profundity of Emerson’s influence over the last 170 years, and also to defamiliarize the ‘Sage of Concord’ as an exclusively New England personage. The writings LaRocca has assembled here show what an international figure Emerson was. Anybody who cares about literature on any level ought to be struck by, and interested in, this.”

Paul Grimstad, Assistant Professor of English, Yale University

“I find it especially valuable that LaRocca has chosen a wide array of writers within and outside U.S. borders. Now that the humanities are going global, it is especially timely to foreground the transnational connections between American writers (whether canonical or not) and writers beyond its borders. In this sense, it is obvious that LaRocca knows Emerson criticism in depth: not only has he selected these essays using a convincing criterion about Emerson’s relevance in the English-speaking world (which is the subject of the 1834-60 section); he has also constructed a volume that speaks for Emerson’s importance beyond the American background (the rest of the sections include essays by Lawrence, Proust, Musil, Maeterlinck, Borges, etc.). In addition, some of the essays in the collection–such as those by Elizabeth Peabody, Amos Bronson Alcott, Robert Frost or Harold Bloom (especially “Mr. America”)-are very hard to find today, which makes this collection is an invaluable tool for anyone interested not only in Emerson scholarship but in the literary culture of the American Renaissance in general.”

— Ricardo Miguel-Alfonso, Associate Professor of English and American Literature, Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, Spain


Emerson’s Transcendental Etudes

by Stanley Cavell

Stanford University Press, 2003; Cultural Memory in the Present

“[A] challenging but endlessly and unpredictably rewarding book.”

—Stephen Mulhall, Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy, University of Oxford, The Times Literary Supplement (May 21, 2004)

“No one has come closer than Stanley Cavell to engaging Emerson’s work in such a way as simultaneously to illuminate and to rival its unique subtlety, boldness, and penetration. This long-awaited collection of new and previously published essays will ensure Cavell’s continuing influence on serious students of American literature and thought for many years to come.”

— Lawrence Buell, Professor of English, Harvard University; author of Literary Transcendentalism and Emerson

Also reviewed by Richard Deming, Yale University, Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society (Fall 2004, Vol. XL, No. 4)



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