A Letter to Three Wives (1949)

Geometries of Popular Narrative: Episodes from the History of Fiction and Film

Lecture by David Bordwell
Thursday, January 24, 2019 - 4:00pm

Note: This lecture will take place in Cobb Hall 307, 5811 S. Ellis Ave.

In his 2017 book Reinventing Hollywood: How 1940s Filmmakers Changed Movie Storytelling, David Bordwell proposed that narrative innovations of that period owed a great deal to revisions of modernist technique that emerged in literature, theater, and radio. Using that premise as a starting point, Bordwell looks at some sources of one narrative strategy, the “pattern plot,” which throws its own organization into explicit relief. Arguing that this strategy emerges from trends in High Modernist writing, in middlebrow fiction, and in popular literature (especially mystery fiction), Bordwell suggests that the effects of pattern plotting emerge most saliently in handling of chronology and viewpoint, using examples from across Hollywood history. 

David Bordwell is the Jacques Ledoux Professor Emeritus of Film Studies at the University of Wisconsin—Madison. In 2016 he served as Senior Chair of Modern Culture at the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress. He’s the author of Reinventing Hollywood: How 1940s Filmmakers Changed Movie Storytelling (2017) and coauthor (with his wife Kristin Thompson) of Film Art: An Introduction and Film History: An Introduction. They blog at   

Co-sponsored by the Department of Cinema and Media Studies.