As a summer fellow at the Studio, I am researching honeymoon narratives and building a repository of images, film stills and other media chronicling the practice of honeymooning in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This collection is intended to serve as research, concept development and material acquisition for a film about honeymoon films. Specifically, I am interested in the movies people make on their honeymoons and the degree to which those films reiterate or diverge from preconceived notions of heteronormative romance narratives, typified in Hollywood film.
Lauren Berlant’s scholarship on sentimentality and US nation-making in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries has helped to guide my ideas for the project. In “America, post Utopia: Body, Landscape, and National Fantasy in Hawthone’s Native Land”, Lauren Berlant defines the “National Symbolic” as “the common language of a common space”. She argues that individuals born within a certain region become transformed into citizens of that region as they take on the common icons, metaphors, rituals and narratives that constitute the National Symbolic. In Newlyweds on Tour, Barbara Penner situates the honeymoon ritual within Berlant’s National Symbolic. As the honeymooning couple moved through their route, not only did they participate in the activity of nation-making, but their identity as honeymooners fostered identification from on-lookers and prompted “collective feelings of attachment, whether to the idea of conjugality, domesticity, nation, or simply sentiment itself” (Penner, 2). These sentimental journeys have been mapped out in illustrated novels such as Their Wedding Journey and even matrimonial maps, which construct an affective topography of intimacy. These maps strike me as proto-filmic in nature. I imagine that the emotional and spatial journey of the couple in a road-film romantic comedy, such as It Happened One Night could be mapped in a similar way.
Since beginning my fellowship with the studio, I have begun researching and collecting media associated with honeymoon narratives. This has ranged from advertisements, books, articles, films and illustrations. Moreover, I have begun archiving and transcoding films from DVD to MP4 files in order to deconstruct them into their constitutive scenes and shots in Adobe Premiere. This will allow me to isolate scenes from different films and compare their representation of the honeymooning couple.
At this point, I’m considering different routes follow for the remaining five weeks of the course. While I set out to create an archive of media in Omeka, I am now considering the option of creating a narrative map, or somehow cataloging recurring tropes between films. Moreover, in an effort to narrow my focus, I have considered focusing solely on Niagara Falls and its transformation from site to symbol.
I look forward to discussing these ideas with Matthew Butler and Deborah Whaley in the weeks to come.