In the first two decades of the twentieth century, American artists connected to the journal the Seven Arts sought to transform the cinema into an indigenous art free from European influence. Precisely because the cinema was “an art that won't behave,” as the journal's first essay on film put it, it depended on the arts as tutor texts in the effort to restrain sensory disorder and reinvigorate communal life. Wholly absent from critical treatments that see film as a model for the most kinetic modernist practices, the journal provides entry to a richly interdisciplinary history of American cinema: in the critical writings and poetry of the journal's contributors, including James Oppenheim, Waldo Frank, Vachel Lindsay, Stephen Vincent Benét, and Babette Deutsch, and in the works of artists close to the journal—John Sloan's painting Movies, Five Cents (1907) and Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler's abstract film Manhatta (1921). Imagined as a shelter from the most dispiriting forces of urban-industrial modernity, the cinema was at once embraced, challenged, and idealized by these artists who practiced what Wanda Corn has called a “transcendent modernism.”

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