In Memoriam: Dr. Anne Friedberg (1952-2009)

Anne Friedberg was born in Urbana, IL, and earned a BA in English at Beloit College. She then pursued graduate studies in cinema at NYU, receiving her Ph.D. there in 1983. She taught at several colleges and universities in the east before coming to California to teach at UC Irvine as an associate professor in film studies. In 2003, she moved to USC as a professor in the School of Cinematic Arts, with joint appointments in English and art history. In 2006, she was appointed Chair of the Critical Studies Division in the School of Cinematic Arts.

In her October 14 obituary of Anne in the LA Times, Elaine Woo said: “Believing that ‘how the world is framed may be as important as what is contained within that frame,’ Friedberg was known for her intellectually agile examination of the increasingly visual nature of contemporary culture and its representation on a gamut of screens: at movie theaters, on televisions and computers, on iPhones, BlackBerrys and other handheld gizmos.

“She explored the theme in two books: Window Shopping: Cinema and the Postmodern (1994) and The Virtual Window: From Alberti to Microsoft (2006)….

“‘Anne was one of those rare individuals who with her remarkable intellect could integrate past, present and future,’ Elizabeth M. Daley, dean of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, said …. ‘She was always challenging her colleagues and students to move forward and embrace change and innovation with courage and integrity.’” On this subject of change and innovation, Anne discussed in her book Window Shopping: Cinema and the Postmodern the evolution from modern to postmodern: “Rather than proclaiming a single distinct moment of rupture—when the modern ended and the postmodern began—I suggest a gradual and indistinct epistemological tear along the fabric of modernity, a change produced by the increasing culture centrality of an integral feature of both cinematic and television apparatuses: a mobilized ‘virtual’ gaze…[which] is not a direct perception but a received perception mediated through representation.”

Anne lectured widely in this country and abroad, including invited talks in Berlin, Frankfurt, Bonn, Vienna, Tokyo, Montreal, Bern, Lausanne, Stockholm, Prague, and at the Guggenheim Museum/NY, Art Institute/Chicago, and Getty Museum/LA. In 2001–2002, she was a Visiting Scholar at the Getty Research Institute. During 2005–2006, she was a fellow at USC’s Annenberg Center as a member of the Networked Publics research group. Her research and teaching interests included: film and media histories and theories, old media/new media historiographies, critical theory/ feminist theory, nineteenth century visual culture and early cinema, theories of vision and visuality, architecture and film, global media culture.

Anne’s husband, screenwriter and USC professor Howard A. Rodman, said that when it became clear that Anne was dying, they found Rabbi Carla Howard. “Anne did not let people into her life [easily] but Rabbi Howard became part of our… strange and wonderful extended family….

“Rabbi Howard first provided help and religious support second. Reading and interpreting psalms was a precious time between them. Anne, as a lifelong interpreter of texts, found these hermeneutic sessions brilliant and moving.

“This was not a [religious] rediscovery for Anne. [Not a time to answer] questions that had no answers. It was about dealing with [the] undealable. The last four to five months, Anne was in less emotional and spiritual anguish than she had been in the year before. Rabbi Howard helped to make this passage far more composed, even as she guided the rest of us through seas we never imagined we’d have to navigate.”

Anne’s friend Rhona Berens was with her throughout her illness. She talked about Anne’s not having traditional belief in God. “My visits with Anne often took place after her meetings with Rabbi Carla,” Rhona said, “and I could see the impact they had, they shifted our discussions…. [She] was able to provide her with immense comfort.”

Along with her husband, Howard, their son, Tristan, ever-faithful dog, Simeon, Anne was surrounded by loving friends and devoted former students who walked with her until the end.

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