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Translating Time (09 Edition)


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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Under modernity, time is regarded as linear and measurable by clocks and calendars. Despite the historicity of clock-time itself, the modern concept of time is considered universal and culturally neutral. What Walter Benjamin called “homogeneous, empty time” founds the modern notions of progress and a uniform global present in which the past and other forms of time consciousness are seen as superseded.

In Translating Time, Bliss Cua Lim argues that fantastic cinema depicts the coexistence of other modes of being alongside and within the modern present, disclosing multiple “immiscible temporalities” that strain against the modern concept of homogeneous time. In this wide-ranging study—encompassing Asian American video (On Cannibalism), ghost films from the New Cinema movements of Hong Kong and the Philippines (Rouge, Itim, Haplos), Hollywood remakes of Asian horror films (Ju-on, The Grudge, A Tale of Two Sisters) and a Filipino horror film cycle on monstrous viscera suckers (Aswang)—Lim conceptualizes the fantastic as a form of temporal translation. The fantastic translates supernatural agency in secular terms while also exposing an untranslatable remainder, thereby undermining the fantasy of a singular national time and emphasizing shifting temporalities of transnational reception.

Lim interweaves scholarship on visuality with postcolonial historiography. She draws on Henri Bergson’s understanding of cinema as both implicated in homogeneous time and central to its critique, as well as on postcolonial thought linking the ideology of progress to imperialist expansion. At stake in this project are more ethical forms of understanding time that refuse to domesticate difference as anachronism. While supernaturalism is often disparaged as a vestige of primitive or superstitious thought, Lim suggests an alternative interpretation of the fantastic as a mode of resistance to the ascendancy of homogeneous time and a starting-point for more ethical temporal imaginings.


Uses a postcolonial critique of the universality of historical time to propose a new way of considering the fantastic in cinema, a prevalent trope in much Asian and Southeast Asian film.

About the Author

Translating Time is vital, fresh, expansive, and exciting. A strikingly sophisticated thinker, Bliss Cua Lim argues that a linear and progressive understanding of historical time, and its practice of history and history-writing, domesticates other times into a manageable past marked as retrograde, primitive, and naïve. Lim denaturalizes such an understanding by bringing to the fore films (and traditions of storytelling on which films are based) that depend on nonsynchonous histories. Her book will have readers far beyond the field of cinema studies, and it will push that field toward new and crucial questions.”—Amy Villarejo, author of Lesbian Rule: Cultural Criticism and the Value of Desire
Translating Time will set a new standard in cinema studies. It is not only deeply philosophical, bringing a much-needed postcolonial critique of historicism to cinema studies, but also a learned study of Asian, and especially Filipino, cinema in the context of postcoloniality and globalization. I learned an enormous amount from this book. It is quite an achievement.”—David L. Eng, author of Racial Castration: Managing Masculinity in Asian America
“Bliss Cua Lim’s extends ideas about the uncanny, the fantastic and the genre we usually call the horror film beyond its usual references to Hollywood and European cinema, which is fully welcome in this new era of global cinema. But it does much more than that. Her consideration of the uncanny and fantastic open up the profoundly untimely nature of fantasy films—and new possibilities for conceiving of the history of cinema.”—Tom Gunning, author of The Films of Fritz Lang: Allegories of Vision and Modernity

Product Details

Lim, Bliss Cua
Duke University Press
Bliss Cualim
Horror films -- History and criticism.
Bergson, Henri
Film & Video - General
Film & Video - History & Criticism
Asia - Southeast Asia
Film - History & Criticism
Film and Television-History and Criticism
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
John Hope Franklin Center Book
Publication Date:
51 photographs
9.25 x 6.13 in

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History and Social Science » Politics » General
History and Social Science » World History » Southeast Asia
Science and Mathematics » Biology » Zoology » Ichthyology

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Product details 360 pages Duke University Press - English 9780822345107 Reviews:
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Uses a postcolonial critique of the universality of historical time to propose a new way of considering the fantastic in cinema, a prevalent trope in much Asian and Southeast Asian film.
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