Maya Deren

Incomplete Control

Sarah Keller

Columbia University Press

Maya Deren

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Pub Date: December 2014

ISBN: 9780231162210

296 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $30.00£24.95

Pub Date: December 2014

ISBN: 9780231162203

296 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $90.00£74.95

Pub Date: December 2014

ISBN: 9780231538473

296 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $29.99£24.95

Maya Deren

Incomplete Control

Sarah Keller

Columbia University Press

Maya Deren (1917–1961) was a Russian-born American filmmaker, theorist, poet, and photographer working at the forefront of the American avant-garde in the 1940s and 1950s. Influenced by Jean Cocteau and Marcel Duchamp, she is best known for her seminal film Meshes of the Afternoon (1943), a dream-like experiment with time and symbol, looped narrative and provocative imagery, setting the stage for the twentieth-century's groundbreaking aesthetic movements and films.

Maya Deren assesses both the filmmaker's completed work and her numerous unfinished projects, arguing Deren's overarching aesthetic is founded on principles of incompletion, contingency, and openness. Combining the contrasting approaches of documentary, experimental, and creative film, Deren created a wholly original experience for film audiences that disrupted the subjectivity of cinema, its standards of continuity, and its dubious facility with promoting categories of realism. This critical retrospective reflects on the development of Deren's career and the productive tensions she initiated that continue to energize film.
This book is a thorough review of Maya Deren's total oeuvre, offering a study of one of our most important filmmakers who has been more overlooked than one might expect. Further study of Deren from a distinct point of view, as Keller offers, is a vital contribution. Bill Nichols, film critic and editor of Maya Deren and the American Avant-Garde
Keller's truly excellent book considers both Deren's theoretical writings and cinematic work and places them within the context of her life and the difficulties she faced as an experimental artist (frequently unfunded and living on the edge). This volume fills a gap in scholarship on Deren with clear and elegant writing. Lucy Fischer, University of Pittsburgh
Maya Deren: Incomplete Control is a tour de force of historical and critical scholarship that explores new primary research material from Maya Deren's voluminous and complex archive to assert the significance of incompletion and process as central to Deren's artistic and intellectual production. Keller's clear, erudite prose offers brilliant new readings of Deren's extant films, including canonical works like Meshes of the Afternoon, and comprehensively explores Deren's incomplete projects—films, research projects, writings—to draw out Deren's radical imaginings of art and culture. Michael Zryd, York University
A required resource for serious examination of Deren's groundbreaking films.... Keller's smoothly organized, cleanly written text is perhaps the most comprehensive single volume on Deren's work.... Essential. Choice
A must-read for scholars of experimental cinema, women filmmakers, and Maya Deren. Film Criticism
Acknowledgments
Introduction: Unfinished Business
1. Done and Undone: Meshes of the Afternoon and Witch's Cradle
2. Toward Completion and Control: At Land, A Study in Choreography for Camera, and Ritual in Transfigured Time
3. Haiti
4. Full Circle
Conclusion: In Completing a Thought
Notes
Index

Moving Image Publication of the Year

About the Author

Sarah Keller is assistant professor of Art and cinema studies at the University of Massachusetts–Boston. She is coeditor, with Jason Paul, of Jean Epstein: Critical Essays and New Translations.