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Release: Sept. 9, 2002

UI professor to discuss expense, violence in war movies Sept. 14

When was the last time you saw a summer blockbuster that did not include at least one lengthy scene of mass chaos, explosions, death and destruction? These days it seems big-budget is synonymous with violence, and filmmakers are eager to use all the technology at their disposal to lure audiences with something bigger, better, bolder, bloodier.

David Wittenberg, assistant professor of English and of cinema and comparative literature, will talk about war and violence in big-budget movies in his presentation, "The Big, the Violent, and the Expensive: How We Make Pictures of War," at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, in room 40 Schaeffer Hall. The discussion is part of the Saturday Scholars series, presented by the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

"These days you're unlikely to see a really big-budget film without at least one scene of mass destruction," he says. "Something big and expensive, aside from the stars, has to be constructed and then taken apart, usually violently."

Using excerpts from the recent film "Pearl Harbor" as well as portions of the HBO miniseries, "Band of Brothers," Wittenberg will answer some basic questions about how violence and war actually work on screen: How are war scenes reconstructed within big-budget films? How is violence used within certain genres or conventions of storytelling? How do filmmakers involve the audience in the action on screen? Why are we fascinated by images of violence and war?

Wittenberg has taught at the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences since 1998. He is the author of "Philosophy, Revision, Critique: Rereading Practices in Heidegger, Nietzsche, and Emerson," published in 2001 by Stanford University Press. His most recent research includes a new book project on time-travel narratives and their links to philosophy and literary theory, and another book on the theory of very large or expensive cultural objects. He received his doctorate in comparative literature from Johns Hopkins University in 1995. He also has a bachelor's degree from Yale University and master's degrees in philosophy from Northwestern University and in architectural design from the University of California, Berkeley.

Upcoming lectures in the Saturday Scholars series include:

Sept. 28 "The Dead Speak: Lessons from Tyrannosaur," Chris Brochu, assistant professor of geoscience

Oct. 12 "Jewish Women in India: Rethinking the Middle East," Jael Silliman, associate professor of women's studies

Oct. 26 "Just Beneath My Skin: Autobiography and Self-Discovery," Patricia Foster, associate professor of English

Nov. 9 "The Neanderthal Mystery: Who Were They and Why Did They Disappear?" Robert Franciscus, assistant professor of anthropology

All presentations will begin at 10 a.m. in room 40 Schaeffer Hall, the southeast building on the UI Pentacrest. Each session will last about an hour, including a 20-30 minute presentation followed by a question-and-answer session. Refreshments will be served.

Additional information is available at:

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in advance at 335-2610.