Cinema and Cinematicity in Ralph Ellison's 'Three Days Before the Shooting . . . '
Literature of the Americas
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Ralph Ellison's unfinished, posthumously published second novel, Three Days Before the Shooting . . . (2010) seethes with cinematic references and plot points. It also seethes with cinematic metaphors and similes, binding those plot points to each other and helping to articulate the novel’s otherwise myriad intellectual concerns. This article contends that these features of Three Days can best be understood by treating Ellison as a de facto theorist of what art historians and media theorists have recently called “cinematicity.” This term helps to tease apart technologies of cinema¾projection, cinematography and so on¾from more abstract principles these technologies help to enact (for instance, the mobilisation of “still” images into movement). Having teased these things apart, it is possible to see how cinema per se forms part of a constellation alongside the pre-, post-, and paracinematic¾a constellation that is itself one of Three Days’s major concerns. In his treatment of this constellation, furthermore, this article also shows, Ellison uses cinema and cinematicity to think about his more “overt” and widely recognized concerns, such as the intimate relation between memory and forgetting, the role of memory and forgetting within American historic consciousness, the way that “neglected” memories occasion “pain”, and the American Civil War. The article relates Ellison to non-literary figures such as filmmaker D. W. Griffith, declared influences Sergei Eisenstein, V. I. Pudovkin, and André Malraux, and psychoanalysis, and considers whether Ellison’s novel can be understood an instance of what contemporary media theory call “intermediality.”
- Department of English