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Evan Wm. Cameron Collection

Evan Wm. Cameron Collection

 

Photograph by Joan Evans [1992]

Professor Evan Cameron was born on 25 July 1942 in the small mining town of Ishpeming, Michigan, to parents who were ordained ministers in the Salvation Army. His early life, filtered through their committed social service, centred from age five upon learning to play the piano, avoiding evil and, with quiet but growing assurance, wondering 'why?'. After attending eight schools in six cities, he graduated in June 1960 from Shorewood High School, Shorewood, Wisconsin, salutatorian of his class.

He entered Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois, in September 1960 as an Alfred P. Sloan scholar to study physics and mathematics, departing four years later, however, A.B. cum laude with a major in history and a minor with College Honors in philosophy having defended an honor's thesis on Willard Quine's theory of ontological commitment. Notably, he had also, early in his sophomore year, watched in wonder the first two 'nonreligious' films that he had ever encountered, L'ANNÉE DERNIÈRE À MARIENBAD [1961] and HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR [1959], directed by Alain Resnais, the viewing of 'real movies' having been forbidden in his home.

Admitted in September 1964 as a Woodrow Wilson and Danforth fellow into the Graduate Programme in Philosophy at Harvard University to study logic with Quine, he left in the spring of 1965 upon discovering that Quine had extended a leave of absence for another year, perhaps never to return. Crossing the river, he enrolled within the Graduate Programme in Film of the School of Public Communication at Boston University, earning an M.S. in Film Production in 1968 with a thesis "On Mathematics, Music, and Film"; and in 1970, having been invited into the Graduate Programme in Philosophy at Boston University by members of the Boston Center for the Philosophy of Science teaching within it, he received a Ph.D. in Philosophy with a dissertation "On the Inductive Structure of Works of Art".

Three years before, however, while still a student of filmmaking and only a week after marrying Joan Evans, a pianist from Newfoundland who would later become an authority on the history of musicians and composers in Hitler's Germany, he had in September 1967 entered a classroom for the first time as a 'professor', having been invited by the Film Faculty to teach a graduate-level course on any topic having 'something to do with film history'. He chose to examine what he would later call, with musicological resonance, 'the performance practices' of filmmakers who had designed the archetypical films of the Russian and Soviet tradition, assessing how they had structured their films when compared with others fashioned before and after.

Forty-two years later, after teaching within the Film Department of the Faculty of Fine Arts at York University for nearly three decades, he exited from a classroom in April, 2009 having addressed an audience of students for the last time on 'the performance practices' of screenwriters. Upon retiring from the Faculty a few months before as 'Senior Scholar in Screenwriting', he had relinquished as well his cross-appointment to the Graduate Programme in Philosophy wherein he had pondered with students 'the performance practices' of Kant, Wittgenstein, Collingwood and Quine, assessing how they had structured their texts when compared with others written before and after.

Professor Cameron's conviction that one could understand movies or philosophical arguments only by attending in historical order to how writers had fashioned the texts determining them would have sufficed over a career to immunize him from tides of fashion within film studies and philosophy. By insisting as well, however, that one could attend to one only by way of the other, screenplays being the designs of experiments run within the 'metaphysical research laboratory of filmmaking' that would have fascinated Kant, cutting to the roots of logic itself, he found himself obliged to inform others of his work largely through lecturing rather than writing. With no journals of screenwriting extant and none in philosophy eager to uncover the ties binding Kant to Pudovkin, for example, he instead engaged audiences in six countries through the 'performances of an actor' for which he earned an enviable reputation – addresses delivered from 'notes' that, to the surprise of listeners requesting copies, had almost always been written-out beforehand, sentence-by-sentence and with citations exact, as if for publication.

The works collected within this Community, consequently, save for a handful of essays prepared upon request for publication, encompass in larger part representations of 'notes' of lectures. Citations have been revisited as part of 'the asymptotic task of error correction', as Quine put it, and some sentences have been trimmed or reworded to heighten their sense. Otherwise, the 'notes' appear as they were used on the dates noted with no changes of substance having been made.

(The above introduction was prepared by Professor Cameron in January 2019 from an 'intellectual autobiography' in progress that he has promised to deposit within the Community upon completion to enable readers to measure more exactly the curious trajectory of the 'screenplay' of his academic life – presuming, of course, that the 'movie' made from it lasts long enough to permit him, unlike most screenwriters, to conclude it with style.)

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