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Reading: No Way as Way: Towards a Poetics of Martial Arts Cinema


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No Way as Way: Towards a Poetics of Martial Arts Cinema


Kyle Barrowman

The University of Chicago, US
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This essay explores the history and evolution of academic film studies, focusing in particular on the development of an admirably interdisciplinary branch of inquiry dedicated to exploring martial arts cinema. Beginning with the clash between the auteur theory and the development of a psycholinguistic model of film theory upon film studies’ academic entrenchment and political engagement in the 1960s and 1970s, this essay continues past the Historical Turn in the 1970s and 1980s into the Post-Theory era in the 1990s and beyond, by which time studies of martial arts cinema, thanks in large part
to the ‘cultural studies intervention’, began to attract scholars from various academic disciplines, most notably cultural studies. At once diagnostic and prescriptive, this essay seeks to historically contextualize the different modes of thinking that have informed
past engagements with the cinema in general while also offering a polemical metacriticism of exemplars in an effort to highlight deficiencies in the current interpretive orthodoxy informing contemporary engagements with martial arts cinema in particular.
This essay endeavors to find a way to allow the larger enterprise of ‘Martial Arts Studies’ to compliment, rather than colonize and cannibalize, the study of martial arts cinema, and this polemic offers as a model for scholars both in and out of film studies a ‘poetics
of martial arts cinema’ committed to dialectical, ‘alterdisciplinary’ scholarship.
How to Cite: Barrowman, K., 2014. No Way as Way: Towards a Poetics of Martial Arts Cinema. JOMEC Journal, (5), p.None. DOI:
Published on 01 Jun 2014.
Peer Reviewed


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