PRINT September 1971

For a Metahistory of Film: Commonplace Notes and Hypotheses

“The cinematograph is an invention without a future.”

—Louis Lumière

ONCE UPON A TIME, according to reliable sources, history had its own Muse, and her name was Kleio. She presided over the making of a class of verbal artifacts that extends from a half-light of written legend through, possibly, Gibbon.

These artifacts shared the assumption that events are numerous and replete beyond the comprehension of a single mind. They proposed no compact systematic substitute for their concatenated world; rather, they made up an open set of rational fictions within that world.

As made things strong in their own immanence, these fictions bid as fairly for our contemplative energy as any other human fabrications. They are, finally, about what it felt like to reflect consciously upon the qualities of experience in the times they expound.

In order to generate insights into the formal significance of their

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