We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Film Nation

Hollywood Looks at U.S. History, Revised Edition

Robert Burgoyne

Publication Year: 2010

Events of the past decade have dramatically rewritten the American national narrative, bringing to light an alternate history of nation, marked since the country’s origins by competing geopolitical interests, by mobility and migration, and by contending ethnic and racial groups.
In this revised and expanded edition of Film Nation, Robert Burgoyne analyzes films that give shape to the counternarrative that has emerged since 9/11—one that challenges the traditional myths of the American nation-state. The films examined here, Burgoyne argues, reveal the hidden underlayers of nation, from the first interaction between Europeans and Native Americans (The New World), to the clash of ethnic groups in nineteenth-century New York (Gangs of New York), to the haunting persistence of war in the national imagination (Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima) and the impact of the events of 9/11 on American identity (United 93 and World Trade Center).
Film Nation provides innovative readings of attempts by such directors as Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood, and Oliver Stone to visualize historical events that have acquired a mythical aura in order to open up the past to the contemporary moment.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press


pdf iconDownload PDF (84.0 KB)
p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

pdf iconDownload PDF (60.0 KB)
pp. 2-7


pdf iconDownload PDF (57.2 KB)
pp. vii-viii

read more

Preface to the Revised Edition

pdf iconDownload PDF (72.3 KB)
pp. ix-xiv

Since the initial publication of Film Nation in 1997, the American national narrative has become the most open and undecidable of texts, with sudden reversals giving way to spectacular rebounds, and with forces once conceived as operating on parallel or secondary tracks suddenly erupting into the main story. ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (37.2 KB)
pp. xv-xvi

I would like to acknowledge the continuing friendship and support of my two mentors, Tom Conley and Robert Rosenstone, who have encouraged and inspired me throughout my career and whose own scholarly work serves as a model. Both have created exceptional, original bodies of scholarship, and they have succeeded in swimming against the current. ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (74.4 KB)
pp. 1-15

With questions of national, racial, and cultural identity emerging as a central topic of debate in the United States, the American past has become a contested domain in which narratives of people excluded from traditional accounts have begun to be articulated in a complex dialogue with the dominant tradition. ...

read more

1. Race and Nation in Glory

pdf iconDownload PDF (395.7 KB)
pp. 16-37

In resurrecting the forgotten story of a black Union Army regiment and its white leader, Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, Glory conveys a particularly complex understanding of the way racial and cultural identity is both bound up with and competes with the forces of national construction. ...

read more

2. Native America, Thunderheart, and the National Imaginary

pdf iconDownload PDF (352.8 KB)
pp. 38-56

Every state, according to Edward Spicer, is a plural entity, containing within itself two or more nations. Although the widespread use of the term nation-state tends to obscure the fact, the nation-state is not a “welded unity,” but rather, almost without exception, consists of several entities that have long been considered nations in their own right, ...

read more

3. National Identity, Gender Identity, and the Rescue Fantasy in Born on the Fourth of July

pdf iconDownload PDF (487.4 KB)
pp. 57-87

Born on the Fourth of July can be read as a particularly complex variant of the cultural tendency that Susan Jeffords has called “the remasculinization of America”: the restoration of patriarchal concepts of nation through narratives that emphasize the renewal of masculine identity in the post-Vietnam period.1 ...

read more

4. Modernism and the Narrative of Nation in JFK

pdf iconDownload PDF (342.1 KB)
pp. 88-103

The debate over Oliver Stone’s JFK has been framed to date largely within the discourse of historiography, with greatest attention being paid to issues concerning the limits of fact and fiction and the erosion of the presumed boundary between documentary and imaginative reconstruction.1 ...

read more

5. Prosthetic Memory/National Memory: Forrest Gump

pdf iconDownload PDF (376.2 KB)
pp. 104-119

The extraordinary degree of contestation and debate circulating around recent interpretations of the American past has brought into view the powerful role that social memory plays in constructing concepts of nation. The public responses to recent museum exhibitions on the atomic bombing of Japan and the conquest of the American West, ...

read more

6. The Columbian Exchange: Pocahontas and The New World

pdf iconDownload PDF (355.1 KB)
pp. 120-142

Among the deepest and most indelible fictions of American national origin is the notion of the “new world” encountered by the earliest English colonists—a world typically characterized as a dense wilderness populated by “children of the forest” and untouched by the hand of any culture. ...

read more

7. Homeland or Promised Land? The Ethnic Construction of Nation in Gangs of New York

pdf iconDownload PDF (404.0 KB)
pp. 143-163

The ethnic antagonism that dominates Gangs of New York highlights a recurrent tension in the national story seldom considered a constitutive or central part of its fashioning. Although ethnic tension has repeatedly challenged the vision of social coherence that animates the American project, ...

read more

8. Haunting in the War Film: Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima

pdf iconDownload PDF (434.2 KB)
pp. 164-189

Shortly after the introductory logo sequence of Flags of Our Fathers, a faint voice emerges from the darkness of the screen, a voice with an old-fashioned texture and grain, singing a song that sounds like a fragment of a half-heard radio broadcast. The lyrics, barely audible, come through as “Dreams we fashion in the night. ...

read more

9. Trauma and History in United 93 and World Trade Center

pdf iconDownload PDF (395.5 KB)
pp. 190-212

Simultaneously disruptive and conservative, the narratives of United 93 and World Trade Center occupy an odd netherworld of historical representation—challenging in terms of subject matter, but narrowly circumscribed in their approach. Shaped by the cultural barriers erected around the memory of 9/11, ...


pdf iconDownload PDF (147.8 KB)
pp. 213-230


pdf iconDownload PDF (440.3 KB)
pp. 231-236

read more

About the Author

pdf iconDownload PDF (26.2 KB)
p. 254-254

Robert Burgoyne is professor and chair of film studies at the University of St. Andrews. His recent work includes The Hollywood Historical Film and The Epic Film in World Culture. His writing has been translated into Portuguese, Chinese, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, and Korean.

E-ISBN-13: 9780816673285
E-ISBN-10: 0816673284
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816642922

Page Count: 176
Publication Year: 2010