American Movies and Their Cultural Antecedents in Literary Text

Author: Davidson, Phebe
Year:2001
Pages:156
ISBN:0-7734-7342-4
978-0-7734-7342-3
Price:159.95
Six wide-ranging essays which track the evolving representation and understanding of stories and themes, an exercise in seeing where a particular idea, image, or sequence of events will lead. For example, Chapter One traces the evolution of the black/white masculine friendship pair from James Fenimore Cooper through Die Hard to The Green Mile. Chapter four discusses Thelma and Louise and Leaving Normal as complementary cultural texts which serve to extend gender definitions found in earlier American literature and which continue actively to engage men and women in American culture today.

“There’s nothing ordinary about Davidson’s always interesting insights throughout these six essays. . . . An engrossing, original look at film, energetic and lively. As a cultural observer, Davidson is sensitive and conscientious, and she reveals the American myths that both imprison and liberate.” – Book Reader

Reviews

“There’s nothing ordinary about Davidson’s always interesting insights throughout these six essays. . . . An engrossing, original look at film, energetic and lively. As a cultural observer, Davidson is sensitive and conscientious, and she reveals the American myths that both imprison and liberate.” – Book Reader

“Davidson brings a keen insight to the nuances of contemporary American culture’s treatment of blacks, women and men through her examination of one of the most revealing cultural artifacts of any contemporary society: the film. Through a rigorous analysis of earlier literary forms and themes, Davidson demonstrates that American thought has changed little in the 20th century with regard to racial stereotypes and ideas of how blacks and whites should, and do, relate to one another. By the same token, Davidson, in a masterful essay regarding the fairy godmother archetype, shows that there have been significant shifts in the way Americans define and think about gender. All six essays in her new book show intelligent and nuanced understanding of how race and gender are and have been treated in the material by-products of modern American popular culture.” – Debra Reddin van Tuyll

“As she filters the stories of film through her own lens, Davidson changes forever how we see the narratives therein. Moreover, as we move through her various juxtapositions – film with film, film with literature, film with historical race and gender relations, etc, - we also are forced to change how we see ourselves in them. . . . One of the most witty and interesting components of this collection is Davidson’s telling delineation of how we do keep telling the same story over and over again – in cartoons as new as Calvin and Hobbes, fairy tales as old as the Grimms, in literature as canonical as James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales. . . . Davidson shows us these things – ourselves in the act of trying to hide, yet still revealing the truth. . . in informed juxtapositions and entertaining discourse. . . entirely refreshing and timely cultural commentary.” – Dorothy Perry Thompson

“. . . a provocative, engaging and convincing probe into the effect of American movies on their American audience. Her thesis is that the historical problems of race and gender (two problems that just will not go away) are reflected in American literature and then again in movies using the same or similar source material. . . . She discusses works as disparate as Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Lethal Weapon and finds that some differences are illusory: under the surface there are trenchant similarities. Her argument is sound in a wide-ranging familiarity not only of film and literature but of the social-historical nexus in which both exist.” – Eugene McNamara

Table of Contents

Table of contents:
Preface: Playing on the Other Side by Josephine A Koster
Foreword: Reading a New Art
Introduction: Looking through the Windows
Seeing in Black and White: Suppressed Racial Violence from The Defiant Ones to The Green Mile
Good and Guilty Narratives: The White Man Speaks – Samuel Clemens, John Sayles and The Brother from Another Planet
“History with Lightning”: The Legacy of D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation
When Rubber Meets the Road: Thelma and Louise and Leaving Normal as Complementary Cultural Texts
Will the Real Fairy Godmother Please Stand Up?
Dead Already: Fathers and Anti-Feminism in Three 1999 Films (American Beauty; The Sixth Sense; Limbo)
Index