This book is a study of the “Great Movies,” that fluid category of feature films deemed by various authorities—film societies, critics, academics, and movie enthusiasts—to be the enduring and memorable works of cinematic history. But what are they about? In Wit’s End, the author attempts to “make sense” of these films in order to understand their greatness in the context of their relation to other films and to the worlds they come from and recreate on screen.
To that end, we employ the conceptual power of pragmatic social theory and the rich idea of aesthesis to explore and arrange these films as a means of understanding what they express about the universality of human life in our keen use of wit, organization of social wont, and direction of cultural way. It is hoped that such an inquiry will illuminate the glory of the great films and contribute to the advance of film studies.
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James Combs is Professor Emeritus at Valparaiso University in Indiana, USA. He has been active in such academic associations as the Popular Culture Association and the International Communication Association. He is author and editor of a wide variety of books and articles, primarily on subjects related to social and political communication and popular culture, exploring such concepts as political drama, phony culture, the comedy of democracy, and the expansion of social play. Recently he has focused on the social and aesthetic importance of motion pictures. His first book with Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Movie Time, explores the ways movies participate and mediate temporal passage, with retrospection of the past, emergence of a present, and projection of a future. The present work, Wit’s End, is the second volume of a projected trilogy. The third, entitled Comic Grace, will examine the enduring and animating significance and spirit of movie comedy. The author lives in a cabin in the woods of the American Appalachian mountains, along with his wife Sara, surrounded by trees and woodland animals.