Colin MacCabe

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Colin MacCabe
Colin MacCabe Portrait.jpg
MacCabe in Soho, London (January 2007)
Born (1949-02-09) 9 February 1949 (age 68)
Nationality British
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge
Known for Screen theory

Colin Myles Joseph MacCabe (born 9 February 1949) is a British academic, writer and film producer. He is currently a distinguished professor of English and film at the University of Pittsburgh.[1]

Career[edit]

MacCabe was educated at St Benedict's School, Ealing, and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he took his first degree and doctorate entitled James Joyce and the Revolution of the Word (which was subsequently revised and published in 1978). While a graduate student he attended the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris (1972–73), following courses by Louis Althusser, Etienne Balibar, Roland Barthes and Jacques Derrida. In 1974 he was elected a research fellow at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he remained from 1976 until 1981 as a university assistant lecturer in the history of Modern and Early Modern English in relation to literature, and also became a teaching fellow of King's College, Cambridge.[1]

MacCabe became involved in Screen, a journal of film theory published by SEFT (Society for Education in Film and Television) https://academic.oup.com/screen, becoming a member of its board in 1973–78 and contributing essays such as "Realism and Cinema: Notes on Some Brechtian Theses" (1974). This was a period that critic Robin Wood described as the "felt moment of Screen" – the time when critical theories emanating from Paris in the late 1960s began to intervene in Anglophone film culture. By releasing the energy and intellectual debate associated with a major paradigm shift, Screen posed a "formidable and sustained challenge to traditional aesthetics" and academia.[2] Screen attempted the ambitious project of linking cinema to other cultural and social frameworks, as part of an investigation of signification and the constitution of human subjectivity in history.

MacCabe came to public prominence in 1981 when he was denied tenure as a consequence of his position at the centre of a much publicised dispute within the faculty of English concerning the teaching of structuralism.[3] His account of events was published three decades later in "A Tale of Two Theories".[4]

After leaving Cambridge he took up a professorship of English at the University of Strathclyde (1981–85) where he was Head of Department and introduced graduate programmes developing it as a centre for literary linguistics. After over a decade, in which he combined his positions at the British Film Institute with a one-semester appointment at the University of Pittsburgh, he took up a fractional professorship at the University of Exeter (1998–2006), and then at Birkbeck, University of London (1992–2006). He is currently visiting Professor of English at University College, London and at the Birkbeck Institute. In 2011 he taught for a semester in the Department of Cultural Studies at the English and Foreign Languages University in Hyderabad. He was a visiting Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford in the Michaelmas term of 2014. Since 1986 he has remained a professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh.[1]

On leaving the University of Strathclyde in 1985, MacCabe began working for the British Film Institute, initially as Head of the Production Board and, from 1989, as Head of the Research and Education Department, setting up the London Consortium, relaunching Sight and Sound, initiating the BFI Classics series of short monographs, and producing the international series 100 Years of Cinema (with individual episodes directed by Oshima, Frears, Godard, Scorsese) on the centenary of cinema.

The swift termination of MacCabe’s role at the BFI in 1998 was part of a fundamental restructuring exercise at the Institute as the new chair Alan Parker and chief executive John Woodward abolished the Production Board, BFI TV, and MacCabe’s new MA. Production funding was centralised through the UK Film Council, part of New Labour’s plans for the "creative industries".

Writing and academic interests[edit]

After several earlier essays and a short book (Godard: Images,Sounds, Politics) on Jean-Luc Godard, MacCabe wrote a large-scale biography Godard: a Portrait of the Artist at Seventy (2003), gaining insight from collaboration with Godard on several productions and introducing an eight-week season of his late work screened on Channel 4 in 1985 together with a newly made programme, Soft and Hard. Many shorter books offered ideas and insights around specific texts, Nicholas Roeg and Donald Cammell's Performance (1998), T.S. Eliot (2006) and The Butcher Boy (2007) – the 1997 film made by Neil Jordan based on Patrick McCabe’s critically acclaimed 1992 novel. He is the author of Perpetual Carnival: Essays on Film and Literature (2017).

MacCabe has published widely on film and literature with particular emphasis on James Joyce, Jean-Luc Godard, and topics in the history and theory of language. He has served as chairman of the London Consortium, which he co-founded with Mark Cousins, Paul Hirst, and Richard Humphreys. He has edited Critical Quarterly,[5] a magazine of literary and cultural criticism which is based in the UK at the Faculty of English, University of Cambridge and in the US at the Department of English, University of Pittsburgh since 1987.

He returned to full-time academia in 2001, becoming Executive Director of Pittsburgh’s London Study Abroad program and was made a Distinguished Professor of English and Film in 2002.

Funded by the AHRC, the Colonial Film Project 2007-2010 was co-directed with Lee Grieveson. Following Raymond Williams’s pioneering work in the 1980s on a historically founded etymology – Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society, which began in 2005 will be completed in 2017.[6]

Film and television production[edit]

MacCabe succeeded Peter Sainsbury as Head of the BFI Production Board, a funding agency that had developed to include the progressive amalgamation of avant garde, oppositional and art cinema; and supported the work of a wide range of filmmakers including Isaac Julien, Derek Jarman, Terence Davies and Gurinder Chada.

Minerva Films was formed with Paula Jalfon in 1998 and produced a series of television histories of cinema funded by the Independent Film Channel The Typewriter, The Rifle and Movie Camera (which won the Ace Cable award for best cultural documentary in 1996) also making The American Nightmare, Badass Cinema and The Spectre of Hope with Sebatiao Salgado. Minerva Pictures' final project was a portrait of Derek Jarman, Derek, directed by Isaac Julien.

When Tilda Swinton proposed a film about John Berger, with whom they had collaborated in Timothy Neat’s Play Me Something (1989), the result was realised with students from the London Consortium The Seasons in Quincy: Four Portraits of John Berger and became the basis for establishing the Derek Jarman Lab at Birkbeck with Bartek Dziadosz, Lily Ford and Sarah Joshi.

Involvement in a wide range of filmmaking, developing artistic investigation through filmic means, MacCabe's movement between criticism and production, analysis and creativity has informed a range of diverse and agile intellectual enquiries across disciplinary boundaries in literature, philosophy and film.

Selected writings[edit]

  • Perpetual Carnival: Essays on Film and Literature (2017)
  • The Butcher Boy (2007)
  • T.S. Eliot (2006)
  • Godard: A Portrait of the Artist at Seventy (2003)
  • James Joyce and the Revolution of the Word (2nd edition, 2002)
  • The Eloquence of the Vulgar: Language, Cinema and the Politics of Culture (1999)
  • Performance (1998)
  • Diary of a Young Soul Rebel (with Isaac Julien, 1991)
  • Tracking the Signifier: Theoretical Essays on Film, Linguistics, Literature (1985)
  • Godard: Images, Sounds, Politics (1980)
  • James Joyce and the Revolution of the Word (1979)

Filmography[edit]

Films[edit]

Year Title Credited as Notes
2008 Derek Producer
1998 The Old Place Executive Producer
1992 The Long Day Closes Executive Producer Official Selection – Cannes Film Festival
1991 Young Soul Rebels Executive Producer Winner of the Critic's Prize – Cannes Film Festival
Hallelujah Anyhow Executive Producer
1989 Play Me Something Executive Producer
Venus Peter Executive Producer Official Selection – Cannes Film Festival
Melancholia Producer Official Selection – Cannes Film Festival
1988 Distant Voices, Still Lives Executive Producer Winner of the International Critic's Prize – Cannes Film Festival
On the Black Hill Executive Producer Winner of the Golden SeashellSan Sebastian International Film Festival
1986 Friendship's Death Executive Producer
1985 Caravaggio Executive Producer Winner of the Silver BearBerlin International Film Festival

Television[edit]

Year Title Credited as Notes
2004 Murder by Numbers Producer
2002 Baadasssss Cinema Producer
2001 The Spectre of Hope Producer
2000 The American Nightmare Producer
The Name of This Film is Dogme 95 Producer
1999 A Brief History of Errol Morris Producer
1998 Lee Marvin: A Personal Portrait Executive Producer
1997 Howard Hawks: American Artist Executive Producer
1996 The Typewriter, The Rifle, and The Movie Camera Executive Producer Winner of the CableACE Award for Best Cultural Documentary
1995–1996 A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies Executive Producer Part of the "100 Years of Cinema" series, Official Selection – Cannes Film Festival
2 x 50 Years of French Cinema Part of the "100 Years of Cinema" series, Official Selection – Cannes Film Festival
Night of the Film Makers (German Cinema) Part of the "100 Years of Cinema" series, Official Selection – Berlin Film Festival
Ourselves Alone? (Irish Cinema) Part of the "100 Years of Cinema" series
Typically British Part of the "100 Years of Cinema" series, Official Selection – Cannes Film Festival
100 Years of Japanese Cinema Part of the "100 Years of Cinema" series, Official Selection – Cannes Film Festival
Cinema on the Road (Korean Cinema) Part of the "100 Years of Cinema" series, Official Selection – Cannes Film Festival
Cinema of Tears (Latin American Cinema) Part of the "100 Years of Cinema" series, Official Selection – Cannes Film Festival
Cinema of Unease: A Personal Journey by Sam Neill (New Zealand Cinema) Part of the "100 Years of Cinema" series, Official Selection – Cannes Film Festival
I am Curious, Film. (Scandinavian Cinema) Part of the "100 Years of Cinema" series
100 Years of Polish Cinema Part of the "100 Years of Cinema" series, Official Selection – Venice Film Festival
The Russian Idea Part of the "100 Years of Cinema" series, Official Selection – Venice Film Festival
Yang and Yin: Gender in Chinese Cinema Part of the "100 Years of Cinema" series, Official Selection – Venice Film Festival
40,000 Years of Dreaming (Australian Cinema) Part of the "100 Years of Cinema" series
And The Show Goes On (Indian Cinema) Part of the "100 Years of Cinema" series, Official Selection – Venice Film Festival
Aristotle's Plot (African Cinema) Part of the "100 Years of Cinema" series
1992 Black and White in Colour Producer

Installations[edit]

Year Title Credited as
2005 Chris Marker's Owls at Noon Prelude: The Hollow Men Associate Producer
2002 Isaac Julien's Paradise Omeros Associate Producer

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Debrett's Retrieved 13 May 2012.
  2. ^ Wood, Robin (1976). Personal Views, Explorations in Film. London: Gordon Fraser. pp. 33–75. ISBN 0 900406 64 X. 
  3. ^ Newsweek, 16 February (1981), p. 95; see also Philip Lewis, "The Post-Structualist Condition," Diacritics 12:1 (1982): 2–24, p. 2.
  4. ^ New Statesman
  5. ^ "Critical Quarterly". Wiley Online Library. Wiley-Blackwell. Retrieved 4 February 2011. 
  6. ^ an on-line project

External links[edit]