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American Cinema and the Southern Imaginary

Deborah Barker

Publication Year: 2011

Employing innovations in media studies, southern cultural studies, and approaches to the global South, this collection of essays examines aspects of the southern imaginary in American cinema and offers fresh insight into the evolving field of southern film studies.
In their introduction, Deborah Barker and Kathryn McKee argue that the southern imaginary in film is not contained by the boundaries of geography and genre; it is not an offshoot or subgenre of mainstream American film but is integral to the history and the development of American cinema.
Ranging from the silent era to the present and considering Hollywood movies, documentaries, and independent films, the contributors incorporate the latest scholarship in a range of disciplines. The volume is divided into three sections: “Rereading the South” uses new critical perspectives to reassess classic Hollywood films; “Viewing the Civil Rights South” examines changing approaches to viewing race and class in the post–civil rights era; and “Crossing Borders” considers the influence of postmodernism, postcolonialism, and media studies on recent southern films.
The contributors to American Cinema and the Southern Imaginary complicate the foundational term “southern,” in some places stretching the traditional boundaries of regional identification until they all but disappear and in others limning a persistent and sometimes self-conscious performance of place that intensifies its power.

Published by: University of Georgia Press

Series: The New Southern Studies


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

"We would like to thank all the contributors who made this collection possible. We also are indebted to Jay Watson, Annette Trefzer, Jack Pendarvis, Theresa Starkey, and Matthew Bernstein for their willingness to read and comment on the introduction. A special thanks goes to Ivo..."

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Introduction: The Southern Imaginary

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pp. 1-24

"In Walker Percy's The Moviegoer, the movies tell people who they are and where they are: suspended in a South that is as much imagined and represented as it is concrete, as much created and performed as it is organic. The neighborhoods and the seasons Binx Bolling smells borrow..."

I. Rereading the Hollywood South

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The Celluloid War before The Birth: Race and History in Early American Film

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pp. 27-51

"By the time D. W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation arrived on the big screen in 1915, cinematic representations of the Civil War had been around for nearly two decades, virtually the entire lifetime of the young medium. The early twentieth- century America into which the film was..."

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Mammy's "Mules" and the Rules of Marriage

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pp. 52-78

"Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider's 1995 runaway bestseller, The Rules: Time- Tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right, questions and even self- consciously resists the prevailing logic of second- wave feminism concerning gender relations and marriage and emphasizes more conventional approaches to dating for contemporary women to meet and marry..."

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Bodies and Expectations: Chain Gang Discipline

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pp. 79-103

"In overviews of film history, I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang> (1932) is known chiefly for its Depression- era success as a 'social problem' film, popular with audiences and infl uential in penal reform. In its day, the film benefited from the charismatic lead performance of Paul Muni and..."

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The Postwar Cinematic South: Realism and the Politics of Liberal Consensus

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pp. 104-121

"In a critical early scene in Panic in the Street (Elia Kazan, 1950), a representative from the U.S. Public Health Service challenges the New Orleans mayor's office and police on their failure to acknowledge the potential for a dangerous epidemic in the city. The narrative is a contagion story cloaked in a crime thriller, but it is equally a psychological drama..."

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A "Professional Southerner" in the Hollywood Studio System: Lamar Trotti at Work, 1925-1952

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pp. 122-148

"In the minds of many studio- era Hollywood talents, executives, and administrators of the 1920s through the 1950s-as in the view of many Americans-the South was a region apart, a foreign country, one whose customs and beliefs, particularly concerning race and race relations, were..."

II. Viewing the Civil Rights South

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Black Passing and White Pluralism: Imitation of Life in the Civil Rights Struggle

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pp. 151-178

"In his classic essay 'Tales of Sound and Fury: Observations on the Family Melodrama,' Thomas Elsaesser views stylistically sophisticated films by directors such as Vincente Minnelli or Douglas Sirk as the fruition of melodrama’s potential to evoke a hegemonic social structure on the..."

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Remembering Birmingham Sunday: Spike Lee's 4 Little Girls

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pp. 179-193

"Birmingham, Alabama, especially pre- 1970s Birmingham, often conjures up images of white racism at its most virulent.1 During the period from 1947 to 1963, fifty black homes and churches were bombed. The Birmingham police department and Theophilus Eugene..."

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Exploitation Movies and the Freedom Struggle of the 1960s

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pp. 194-216

"In the 1960s a small but signifi cant number of pulp movies used civil rights in the South as a dramatic trigger, specifi cally massive resistance to the Freedom Rides in 1961 and to the voter registration drives that culminated in Freedom Summer in 1964. The movies were released in..."

III. Crossing Borders

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Mapping out a Postsouthern Cinema: Three Contemporary Films

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pp. 219-252

"In Inventing Southern Literature, critic Michael Kreyling credits his predecessor Lewis P. Simpson with coining the concept of the 'postsouthern.'1 Simpson unveils the term in an essay from his 1980 collection, The Brazen Face of History, that traces a crucial shift in regional..."

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The Native Screen: American Indians in Contemporary Southern Film

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pp. 253-276

"One of the greatest literary hoaxes of all time occurred when Forrest Carter successfully passed off as autobiography his charming little book The Education of Little Tree (1976).1 The purported memoir tells the story of a young boy orphaned at the age of fi ve and sent to live with his grandparents in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee. His grandmother..."

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The City That Deja Vu Forgot: Memory, Mapping, and the Americanization of New Orleans

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pp. 277-292

"In the first Hollywood movie made and set in post- Katrina New Orleans, the Jerry Bruckheimer- Tony Scott action thriller Déjà Vu (2006), a spectacular disaster hits the Crescent City. Hundreds of men, women, and children die horribly in the water; corpses fl oat to the surface; and..."

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Humid Time: Independent Film, Gay Sexualities, and Southernscapes

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pp. 293-316

"Independent feature- length fictional filmmaking is a relatively recent phenomenon in the southeastern United States, one that opens an avenue of self- representation different from Hollywood. In the 1980s Ross McElwee and Victor Nuñez were hailed as regional southern voices, McElwee..."

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Papa Legba and the Liminal Spaces of the Blues: Roots Music in Deep South Film

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pp. 317-335

"This essay is about an idea of the blues: as it has been perceived, appropriated, framed, selected, and reflected in the medium of four films set in the U.S. South. It is about the blues as they were, and are, imagined to be in the world of Hollywood fiction, the flickering chiaroscuro of the..."

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Revamping the South: Thoughts on Labor, Relationality, and Southern Representation

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pp. 336-352

"During the 2006 Oscar telecast, Academy Awards president Sid Ganis commented on Hollywood's efforts to help rebuild New Orleans post- Katrina, citing the production of several fi lms in the region. Subsequently, a good deal of film and television production moved to Louisiana,..."


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pp. 353-366


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pp. 357-375

E-ISBN-13: 9780820337241
E-ISBN-10: 0820337242
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820333809
Print-ISBN-10: 0820333808

Page Count: 384
Illustrations: 4 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: The New Southern Studies
Series Editor Byline: Jon Smith and Riché Richardson, Series Editors See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 706078532
MUSE Marc Record: Download for American Cinema and the Southern Imaginary

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Subject Headings

  • Memory in motion pictures.
  • Aufsatzsammlung.
  • African Americans in motion pictures.
  • Motion pictures and history.
  • Race relations in motion pictures.
  • Southern States -- In motion pictures.
  • Geschichte. -- swd.
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