New Directions in Feminist Media Studies

deadline for submissions: 
September 21, 2017
 
full name / name of organization: 
Keri Walsh, Fordham University
 
contact email: 
 

Red Velvet Seat: Women’s Writings on the Cinema: The First Fifty Years (2006), which brings together a rich variety of writings by authors including Maya Deren, Virginia Woolf, Colette, and Lillian Gish that might provide starting places for new feminist film histories and theories. Other recent interventions include Kirsten Pullen’s Like a Natural Woman: Spectacular Female Performance in Classical Hollywood (2014) which explores the development of naturalist film acting techniques by performers including Carmen Miranda and Lena Horne; Shelley Stamp’s Lois Weber in Early Hollywood (2015) which argues that Weber “was considered one of the era’s “three great minds” alongside D. W. Griffith and Cecil B. DeMille;”; and Jennifer Smyth’s forthcoming Nobody’s Girl Friday: The Women Who Ran Hollywood which promises to be “a new history of Hollywood that puts women at the center of production.” The momentum surrounding the re-telling of film history to include women promises to extend to all quarters of media studies. Works that already broach this broader terrain include Jennifer Christine Nash’s The Black Body in Ecstasy: Reading Race, Reading Pornography (2014) and Christine Ehrick’s Radio and the Gendered Soundscape: Women and Broadcasting in Argentina and Uruguay, 1930-1950 (2015).This seminar seeks papers that contribute to this significant new direction in media studies, and that extend to new areas of inquiry. Papers might work to answer questions such as: How does new work on women and media have the potential to alter, challenge, or transform existing canonical concepts in the study of media, such as auteurship, montage, aura, seriality, or melodrama? What new concepts might emerge as significant in light of this work? Who are, or might be, some of the key figures and foundational works for this new set of histories? How and where is the presence of women’s authorship in evidence even in works that have traditionally been attributed to men? How might we challenge and expand our methodologies so that we can see women’s contributions more clearly? How can these new media histories be constructed as inclusively as possible, so as not to replicate the logics of exclusion that have characterized media histories of the past? In what newly enabling ways might we understand issues of technology and disciplinarity in relation to women’s role in the creation and reception of media, whether as performers, writers, technicians, producers, audiences, theorists, scholars?

Submit 250-word abstracts to Keri Walsh kwalsh36@fordham.edu by September 21, 2017.

(This is an ACLA session that is not yet guaranteed).

November 2017

Deborah and Her Sisters
How One Nineteenth-Century Melodrama and a Host of Celebrated Actresses Put Judaism on the World Stage

by Jonathan M. Hess

Before Fiddler on the Roof, before The Jazz Singer, there was Deborah, a tear-jerking melodrama about a Jewish woman forsaken by her non-Jewish lover. Within a few years of its 1849 debut in Hamburg, the play was seen on stages across Germany and Austria, as well as throughout Europe, the British Empire, and North America. The German-Jewish elite complained that the playwright, Jewish writer S. H. Mosenthal, had written a drama bearing little authentic Jewish content, while literary critics protested that the play lacked the formal coherence of great tragedy. Yet despite its lackluster critical deborah and her sistersreception, Deborah became a blockbuster, giving millions of theatergoers the pleasures of sympathizing with an exotic Jewish woman. It spawned adaptations with titles from Leah, the Forsaken to Naomi, the Deserted, burlesques, poems, operas in Italian and Czech, musical selections for voice and piano, a British novel fraudulently marketed in the United States as the original basis for the play, three American silent films, and thousands of souvenir photographs of leading actresses from Adelaide Ristori to Sarah Bernhardt in character as Mosenthal’s forsaken Jewess.

For a sixty-year period, Deborah and its many offshoots provided audiences with the ultimate feel-good experience of tearful sympathy and liberal universalism. With Deborah and Her Sisters, Jonathan M. Hess offers the first comprehensive history of this transnational phenomenon, focusing on its unique ability to bring Jews and non-Jews together during a period of increasing antisemitism. Paying careful attention to local performances and the dynamics of transnational exchange, Hess asks that we take seriously the feelings this commercially successful drama provoked as it drove its diverse audiences to tears. Following a vast paper trail in theater archives and in the press, Deborah and Her Sisters reconstructs the allure that Jewishness held in nineteenth-century popular culture and explores how the Deborah sensation generated a liberal culture of compassion with Jewish suffering that extended beyond the theater walls.

Jonathan M. Hess is the Moses M. and Hannah L. Malkin Distinguished Professor of Jewish History and Culture and Chair of the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is author of several books, including Middlebrow Literature and the Making of German-Jewish Identity and Germans, Jews and the Claims of Modernity.

Puccini’s “Tosca” at The Metropolitan Opera

Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca will be playing at the New York Metropolitan Opera from December 31st – May 12th.

Sir David McVicar’s ravishing new production offers a splendid backdrop for two extraordinary sopranos sharing the title role of the jealous prima donna: Sonya Yoncheva (pictured above in La Traviata) and Anna Netrebko. Vittorio Grigolo and Marcelo Álvarez alternate in the role of Tosca’s revolutionary artist lover Cavaradossi, with Sir Bryn Terfel, Michael Volle, and Željko Lučić as the depraved police chief Scarpia. puccini-tosca-poster-1351609987-view-0Music Director Emeritus James Levine conducts.

Puccini’s melodrama about a volatile diva, a sadistic police chief, and an idealistic artist has offended and thrilled audiences for more than a century. Critics, for their part, have often had problems with Tosca’s rather grungy subject matter, the directness and intensity of its score, and the crowd-pleasing dramatic opportunities it provides for its lead roles. But these same aspects have made Tosca one of a handful of iconic works that seem to represent opera in the public imagination. Tosca’s popularity is further secured by a superb and exhilarating dramatic sweep, a driving score of abundant melody and theatrical shrewdness, and a career-defining title role.

Fall 2017

“Film Melodrama and Opera: La Tosca in Italian Cinema” by Bernhard Kuhn

Abstract:

This article focuses on the relationship between film melodrama and opera from an intermedial perspective. In addition to drawing on relevant literature in the fields of intermediality and melodrama studies, it incorporates literary and musicological theories. It argues that while opera and melodrama are related, the operatic and the melodramatic are distinct modes of artistic expression. Comparable to the melodramatic mode, the operatic mode appears in many media and is highly relevant for the Italian cinema. In the first part, the article distinguishes between the operatic and melodramatic mode and points to relevant elements of the relationship between melodrama, opera, and the Italian cinema. To illustrate significant aspects of this connection, the second part of this article reflects on two films based on Victorien Sardou’s drama La Tosca (1887): Carlo Koch’s Tosca (1941) and Luigi Magni’s La Tosca (1973). The two films incorporate operatic and melodramatic elements very differently. While in Koch’s version the musical discours is at times comparable to arias in opera, the film also incorporates instances of melodrama. Magni’s film, on the other hand, transforms Sardou’s drama into a musical film reminiscent of opera buffa. It communicates less on the affective level and rather evokes a cognitive reflection on Italy’s reality of the early 1970s.

Spring 2017

“Melodrama and Natural Science: Reading the “Greenwich Murder” in the Mid-Century Periodical Press” by Anne Rodrick

Abstract:

The “Greenwich Murder,” an 1846 infanticide and incest case, was covered extensively in the newspaper press. Reporters and editors employed both the language of melodrama and the language of the natural science lecture in order to help their readers understand how the arcane chemical data of the coroner’s inquest could reinforce the familiar tropes of good and evil embedded in domestic melodrama. This case demonstrates the ways in which these two competing frames existed in tension with one another and how journalistic practices began to change in order to accommodate readers’ appetites for complex criminal reporting.


Anarcho-Feminist Melodrama and the Manic Pixie Dream Girl by Claire T. Solomon

Abstract:

In her article “Anarcho-Feminist Melodrama and the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (1929-2016)” Claire Solomon analyzes the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope as an apparatus of capture (Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand). More precisely, her article models how such tropes imply modes of reading anachronistically and metafictionally that decontextualize gestures of resistance and conflate female writers, performers, and characters across time and place. Solomon offers a situated formalist reading of Argentine playwright Salvadora Medina Onrubia’s 1929 drama, Las descentradas, revealing an avant-garde counterpoint of melodrama and metafiction as an ambiguous alternative to capture.


A postcolonial iconi-city: Re-reading Uttam Kumar’s cinema as metropolar melodrama” by Sayandeb Chowdhury

Abstract:

Since the early years of India’s emergence into a ‘post-colony’, the possibilities of the popular in Bengali cinema had to be renegotiated within the complex registers offered by a severely decimated cultural economy of the region. It could be claimed that by early 1950s, Bengali cinema’s negotiation of a linguistic and spatial equivalent of ‘disputed’ and ‘lost’ nation led to it trying to constantly spatialize Calcutta, offering several possibilities to reinterpret the metropolar visuality in and of the postcolonial city. Calcutta provided Bengali cinema a habitation, a metaphor of modernity and a spatial equivalent of a nation. A substantive share of Bengali cinema’s spatial turn was within the formal configurations of melodrama, the talisman of which was the star figure of Uttam Kumar. Kumar’s effortless urbanity stood vanguard to the popular-modern of postcolonial Bengali cinema, while his films also provided a sustained critique of the same. This article interrogates popular cinema from the vantage of the visualized space of the city. Drawing from space theory, melodrama and star studies, it interrogates the nature of the Bengali metropolitan-popular and would hope to provide a new understanding of cinema’s aesthetic institutionalization and narrative function within the scope of melodrama and stardom.


The poetics of Indian cinema: introduction by Sudhir Mahadevan and Anuja Jain

Screen Volume 58, Issue 1, 1 March 2017, Pages 59–63, https://doi.org/10.1093/screen/hjx005
Published:
04 April 2017

the poetics of any artistic medium studies the finished work as the result of a process of construction – a process that includes a craft component (such as rules of thumb), the more general principles according to which the work is composed, and its functions, effects, and uses.

…In this sense, all the contributions to this dossier attend to constructional devices…

Lit-TV: A Two-Day Symposium Exploring Contemporary US Television and “the Literary”

deadline for submissions:
December 1, 2017
full name / name of organization:
Edinburgh Napier University / Durham University

Organisers: Dr Arin Keeble (Edinburgh Napier) and Dr Sam Thomas (Durham).

Keynote: Professor Stephen Shapiro (Warwick University)

We are seeking proposals for a symposium to be hosted by the School of Arts and Creative Industries at Edinburgh Napier University (Merchiston Campus) on May 5-6, 2018.

Contemporary US television is frequently conceived of, promoted and analysed as “literary”. Following the game-changing impact of The Sopranos (1999-2007), The Wire (2002-2008) can potentially be identified as a paradigm case here: it was originally pitched to HBO as a “novel” for television; it has been famously compared to the serial works of Dickens; it has received enthusiastic endorsements from writers such as Junot Díaz and Zadie Smith; its creator David Simon has been suggested by some commentators as a worthy recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature; it has been studied and taught in university English Departments.

Beyond The Wire, there are examples from across the genre spectrum of an intriguing, multifaceted interplay between screen and page. Cult favourite Justified (2010-2015) is deeply rooted in the distinctive prose of Elmore Leonard and pays tribute to the creator of its principle characters in reverential yet playful ways. Sons of Anarchy (2007-2013) fuses extreme pulp violence and melodrama with the narrative frame of Hamlet. Shows as diverse as Breaking Bad (2008-2013), True Detective (2014-) and Orange is the New Black (2013-) feature strategic allusions to all manner of literary texts. A recent spate of productions, including The Man in the High Castle (2015-), American Gods (2017-) and The Handmaid’s Tale (2017), are based on influential novels — inspiring much discussion about the new possibilities for literary adaptation and even, in the case of the latter, acts of political protest.

Tied to profound changes in the production and reception of television, these series demonstrate a range of entrenched associations with literary culture. The relationship between television and the literary is also a crucial factor in recent debates about prestige, canonicity and contemporary value systems. With these points in mind, critics such as Greg Metcalf have gone so far as to assert that television now has the capacity “to create what we think of as literature” (The DVD Novel, 2012).

Cutting against this, however, is a wave of scholarship that focusses on how such programmes might resist and/or diverge from the literary tag, often by embellishing narrative possibilities that are unique to television. In Complex TV (2015), for instance, Jason Mittell argues that “such cross-media comparisons obscure rather than reveal the specificities of television’s storytelling form”. In ‘Breaking Bad’ and Dignity (2015), Elliot Logan claims that the celebrated series challenges the way in which the “literary” is held up as an ideal for television to aspire to.

In many respects, the analysis of contemporary US television therefore speaks to a rich cultural history that encompasses both cross-pollination and opposition, while at the same time opening up compelling questions about present and future relationships between narrative media.

Ultimately, the two-day symposium seeks to contribute to emerging scholarship on the nature and value of televisual storytelling vis-à-vis the literary.

We invite proposals for 20 minute papers addressing (but not limited to) the following areas:

  • Parallels, converges and (dis)connections between literary and televisual narrative form
  • Seriality
  • Literary sources / adaptation / allusion
  • The relationship between televisual and literary genres (crime, dystopia, the gothic, social realism, and so on)
  • The relationship between televisual and literary places / regions
  • Television and literary heritage / tradition
  • Theoretical paradigms for (re)thinking the relationship between television and the literary
  • Value / cultural capital / canonicity
  • The legitimacy of ‘literary tv’ as a concept in culture and criticism

Please send abstracts to littvconference2018@gmail.com by December 1, 2017