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Amy Borden (Portland State University)

Short Bio

Amy Borden is assistant professor of Film Studies at Portland State University where she specializes in silent film history. She is researching how motion pictures were theorized in turn-of-the-century American magazines and how publishing personnel were involved in silent film. Her work has appeared in Jump Cut, Beyond the Screen: Institutions, Networks and Publics of Early Cinema and is forthcoming in Multiplicities: Cycles, Sequels, Remakes and Reboots in Film & Television


Abstract: "Tasty Links: Film Cycles and the Intermedial Contexts of the Sausage Machine"

First represented in motion pictures in 1895, the well-known variety theater and vaudeville prop of the sausage machine appears in over 27 films over a nearly thirty-year span. I argue that the presence of this prop indicates the existence of what I call the "sausage cycle" in both the transitional and pre-transitional eras in the United States and France. This film cycle - marked by the use of a machine that transforms animals into sausage or other objects and vice-versa - allows me to both reflect on silent film seriality and to sketch an intermedial context from which the theme of "suspect sausage" emerges in American vaudeville, English variety theater, and early film attractions. I examine this cycle by tracing how a prop is used across media carrying with it and shedding practices that may be particular to one form of entertainment or another. In doing so, I consider how props may be read alongside editing, for instance, as markers of change from attractions to narrative. The context in which my argument about mise-en-scene is made also touches on how the depiction of sausage plays on jingoistic and nativist depictions of German and Chinese immigrants in the United States in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries in ways that build upon similar depictions in vaudeville and variety theater traditions.