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Abstract

This dissertation approaches the avant-garde filmmaker, critic, and photographer Hollis Frampton (1936-1984) through a particular strait. Twenty years after his death, the executrix of his estate, photographer Marion Faller (1941-2014), began donating his materials (correspondences, film footage, audio recordings, working notes, etc.) to a number of archives and museums. Through my cataloging of these new holdings at both the Harvard Film Archive and Anthology Film Archives, I not only had access to things that Frampton alone had seen, but began to sense a new model for approaching his art, one my dissertation identifies as being the result of Frampton’s “fantasy of the archive.” Chapter 1 re-reads Frampton’s first published essays (written for Artforum and gallery catalogs in the early 1970s) to establish the above concept. Frampton used the figure of the archive in his writing about 19th century photography and in fables about an ancient form of cinema, as ways of developing his theory of the “metahistorian.” I tie these concerns of his as a critic to the context of his life at the time: his involvement in resurrecting the early sculpture of his friend Carl Andre through photographic documentation, and his connection to the formation of Anthology Film Archives. Frampton’s film Zorns Lemma (1970) serves as a touchstone for this chapter as its form and production history exemplify one way that Frampton incorporated his “fantasy of the archive” into his own films. Chapter 2 performs an extremely close reading of Frampton’s most well known film, (nostalgia) (1971) – which was placed on the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry in 2003 – for another way. Through its patterns, puns, and deliberate discrepancies, (nostalgia) challenges the critic to take on a metahistorical guise in order to fully activate the autobiography that the film presents. Chapter 3 surveys the now real Frampton archive that has been left to us. Much of the unreleased moving image material was created for Frampton’s mammoth film cycle Magellan (1972 - ). I touch on three relatively developed segments and look at how they elucidate Frampton’s thinking about word and image, Marcel Duchamp and Stan Brakhage. Building off of previous scholars’ work on Frampton (P. Adams Sitney, Scott MacDonald, Annette Michelson, Bruce Jenkins, Rachel Moore) this dissertation makes use of new primary research materials – embers that can be reignited by the metahistorian – to add deeper dimensions to our understanding of this important figure from the intersecting worlds of art and avant-garde film in the 1970s.

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