Skip to main content

30% Off New Releases: Explore the List

Harvard University Press - home
The Emergence of Cinematic Time

The Emergence of Cinematic Time

Modernity, Contingency, the Archive

Mary Ann Doane

ISBN 9780674007840

Publication date: 12/27/2002

Hailed as the permanent record of fleeting moments, the cinema emerged at the turn of the nineteenth century as an unprecedented means of capturing time--and this at a moment when disciplines from physics to philosophy, and historical trends from industrialization to the expansion of capitalism, were transforming the very idea of time. In a work that itself captures and reconfigures the passing moments of art, history, and philosophy, Mary Ann Doane shows how the cinema, representing the singular instant of chance and ephemerality in the face of the increasing rationalization and standardization of the day, participated in the structuring of time and contingency in capitalist modernity.

At this book's heart is the cinema's essential paradox: temporal continuity conveyed through "stopped time," the rapid succession of still frames or frozen images. Doane explores the role of this paradox, and of notions of the temporal indeterminacy and instability of an image, in shaping not just cinematic time but also modern ideas about continuity and discontinuity, archivability, contingency and determinism, and temporal irreversibility. A compelling meditation on the status of cinematic knowledge, her book is also an inquiry into the very heart and soul of modernity.


  • Mary Ann Doane has written an ambitious and highly original work, relating film studies and the understanding of the basic apparatus of cinema to a broad cultural description of temporality in the late modern (late 19th and early 20th centuries) period. This is a new and exciting contribution to intellectual discourse about modernity, time and, especially, cinema. Its original cross-disciplinary argument should attract readers from many fields and at many levels. Theory here takes on history and yields a strong new approach to questions about the role cinema plays in culture.

    —Tom Gunning, Professor of Art History and Film Studies, University of Chicago


  • Mary Ann Doane is George Hazard Crooker University Professor of Modern Culture and Media and of English at Brown University.

Book Details

  • 304 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press