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Image and Identity

Reflections on Canadian Film and Culture

R. Bruce Elder

Film and Media Studies


$39.95 Hardcover, 502 pp.

ISBN13: 978-0-88920-956-5

Release Date: May 1989

Hardcover edition is out of print.  

Order online and receive a 25% discount

$42.95 Paper, 502 pp.

ISBN13: 978-1-55458-469-7

Release Date: August 2012



Book Description

Image and Identity examines the unique qualities of Canadian cinema, situating it within the broader spectrum of Canadian culture as a whole. Taking a genetic approach toward uncovering an answer to the ever-pressing Canadian question, “In reality, who are we?” Bruce Elder explores the essential features of Canadian thought and the distinctive Canadian philosophical traditions that developed in response to our particular historical and geographical circumstances. Arguing that this rich yet largely neglected tradition is still reflected in much of our current artistic practice, Elder examines the Canadian documentary tradition, English-Canadian narrative filmmaking, and the works of our cinematic avant-garde. Focusing on the particular strengths of the avant-garde cinema, and providing in-depth analyses of the works of Michael Snow, Jack Chambers, David Rimmer, and many others, he demonstrates why these internationally celebrated Canadian artists have been at the forefront of the transition from modernist to postmodernist practices.

About R. Bruce Elder

R. Bruce Elder is a filmmaker, critic, and teacher (and former Program Director) in the Graduate Program in Communication and Culture at Ryerson University. His film work has been screened at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and Millennium Film Workshop, Berlin’s Kino Arsenal, Paris’ Centre Pompidou, the San Francisco Cinematheque, Atlanta’s High Museum, Los Angeles’ Film Forum, Stadtfilmmuseum München, and Hamburg’s Kino Metropolis. Retrospectives of his work have been presented by Anthology Film Archives (NY), the Art Gallery of Ontario, Cinématheque Québecoise, Il Festival Senzatitolo (Trento), Images Film and Video Festival (Toronto). Cinematheque Ontario has said this about him: “R. Bruce Elder is not only one of Canada’s foremost experimental filmmakers, he’s one of our greatest artists, thinkers, critics, and filmmakers, period.” Harmony & Dissent, his previous book on film and avant-garde art movements, was awarded the Robert Motherwell Book Prize, shortlisted for the Raymond Kilbansky Prize, and named a Choice Outstanding Academic Book for 2010. His next book entitled Dada, Surrealism, and the Cinematic Effect is forthcoming from WLU Press.


“Within its compass, that of Canadian intellectual history, Image and Identity is a methodological correction to the state of Canadian film studies. Elder’s study seeks to perform a contextual redress for Canadian film, negatively in the case of documentary cinema and realist fiction film, positively in the case of the avant-garde. He manages this task admirably, arguing clearly and in depth as a scholar fully conversant with the exemplary recent work in Canadian studies by Armour and Trott and by Wilden, Reid, and Kroker, and with the original sources their writing explores.”

— Bart Testa, University of Toronto Quarterly

“One of the better-kept secrets about Elder’s past is his formal graduate study in philosophy. This training can no longer remain a secret to readers of this book. But, in addition, Elder reveals a firm grasp of Canadian history, against which he explains the country’s philosophical and aesthetic evolution. His documentation ... is impressively scholarly.”

— Cam Tolton, Canadian Book Review Annual

“Daunting, dense, encyclopedic, exhaustive, exhausting, and oftern brilliant.”

— M. Yacowar, Emily Carr College of Art and Design, Choice

Image and Identity at its best is intoxicated with its subject and can take a reader straight into it. For those who share the same serious fascination with Canadian culture that Armour, Trott, and Kroker address in their books, Image and Identity will come as something of a revelation: that some Canadian films at least are not homeless orphans of a national cinema that keeps stumbling, but works very much at home in the landscape of Canadian art and thought.”

— Bart Testa, Globe and Mail

“Bruce Elder has written a work as ambitious, expansive and impressive as many of his own film projects.”

Cantrills Filmnotes

“Elder’s work, combining a provocative thesis, a national and international philosophic and artistic context, and a thorough analysis of selected Canadian postmodern works, is a stimulus and a challenge to anyone interested in Canadian art and culture.”

— Paul Tiessen, Canadian Literature