Nanook of the North (USA, 1922/1947/1976/1998) and film exhibition in the classical silent era: A document unbounded?
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to provide a discussion on whether more traditional documents like a film of the classical silent era can be discussed as an unbounded document. Design/methodology/approach – By taking Gérard Genette ’ s concept of the paratext as point of departure and focussing on the exhibition of Nanook of the North during the silent era, the paper discusses elements neglected in most of the academic writings about the film, thereby illustrating the highly problematic notion of film as one original or authentic document that comes as a repeatable unit with clear borders. Findings – More a “ one-time performance ” (Hansen, 1991, p. 93) than identical repetition of the film is one argument for talking about a document unbounded. Genette ’ s concept of the paratext provides a tool to handle the fluid character of these performances and makes us conscious about the complexity of elements both outside and inside the document and on the border between the inside and the outside. In documentation studies the concept of the paratext provides us with a terminology that allows us to place and name elements of a document belonging to its materiality. Originality/value – In providing a case study based on archival material that has not been used before and is not available to a wider public, this paper shows the relevance of investigating films not as a repeatable unit with clear borders, but rather as an unbounded document.