Review: Investigating Identities in Young Adult (YA) Narratives

University of Northampton

Despite divided opinion regarding characterisation, the conference demonstrated that YA fiction undoubtedly offers the opportunity for a wealth of analysis in relation to identity. Regardless of the medium, YA narratives present journeys through the liminal space of adolescence towards identity creation and this, perhaps, is their defining characteristic; whether a cohesive genre or not. Continue reading

“Exceptional Zombie Cannibals” – Antonia Bird’s ‘Ravenous’ (1999) and the discourse of American exceptionalism

In the last couple of decades, a conflict has emerged between the perception of exceptionalist rhetoric as a historical symbol of American patriotism and the much more harrowing visions pervading the present-day political stage. For a historian of the antebellum era, such as myself, “American exceptionalism” is synonymic with a post-War of Independence period when America rapidly transformed from a remote and largely unexplored land mass into a force to be reckoned with in the world arena (as noted by non-American observers at the time such as Alex De Tocqueville). Continue reading

Book Review: Rhetoric of Modern Death in American Living Dead Films by Outi Hakola

The undead monsters of Hollywood films are embodied spectres of death, and the attempts to confront and overcome these monsters are accordingly ‘struggles to restore and extend shared knowledge and control’ (36). In the classical era, Hakola demonstrates how characters such as Dracula and Doctor Van Helsing in 1931’s Dracula portray the tension between ‘ancient settings, romantic lands and mysterious monsters’ and the heroes who ‘were often related to science and knowledge’, signifying ‘Western supremacy over primitive, pagan and non-American death’ (78) Continue reading

Book Review: Stars, Fans and Consumption in the 1950s: Reading Photoplay by Sumiko Higashi

Sumiko Higashi’s Stars, Fans and Consumption in the 1950s is a book about popular imagery, namely those of the female icons of 1950s movies. Only this isn’t about the movies, rather Higashi’s text investigates the iconography of these women as it is shored up in magazines and on billboards, unveiling not only the rampant commodification of Fifties bodies, but also how and why they were so voraciously consumed. Continue reading

Film Review: Trumbo (2015)

It would be naïve to expect a biopic to comprehensively cover the competing interests, shifting alliances and distinct beliefs among those blacklisted, greylisted, or progressive Hollywood more broadly. However, Trumbo comes to conclusions about courage and cowardice without context and, as such, its oversights are worth exploring. Part of the problem is that Trumbo seems uncomfortable with Dalton’s politics. How else to explain a film with such a curious lack of interest in its protagonist’s beliefs beyond that in the sanctity of the First Amendment? Continue reading

Book Review: Sounding American: Hollywood, Opera, and Jazz by Jennifer Fleeger

According to Fleeger, during the 1920s, many composers, hoping to create and distribute truly American music, attempted to create jazz-operas, a genre that recalled America’s European roots, as well as its ethnic and racial diversity. Although not traditionally described as jazz-operas, Fleeger considers the how The Singing Fool and Yamekraw function as jazz-operas, specifically the ways in which they advertise the Vitaphone, a new synchronous sound system. Continue reading

Review: ANZASA Conference (Part Two)

In August 1964, the first Australia and New Zealand American Studies Association Conference was held at The University of Melbourne. When ANZASA returned to another Melbourne university – Monash – in 2015, the conference did not have a stipulated theme. One repeated area of interest, however, was race and discrimination in America. Another theme that emerged was a desire to continue the historical project of de-exceptionalising America by placing the United States in the context of the wider world. Continue reading

Review: ANZASA Conference (Part One)

Across the two days of the conference, the majority of speakers repeatedly returned to issues of races and discrimination. All four keynote speakers engaged with the racial aspects of their research. Thomas Doherty (Brandeis University) discussed the portrayal of Nazism in 1930s American cinema. Coupled with the erasure of explicit mentions of Judaism from the silver screen during the decade, films such Boys Town (1938) used allegory and avoidance to critique Nazi Germany within the political censorship of the Motion Picture Production Code. Continue reading