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Criticism

Vol. 43 (2001) through current issue

Criticism provides a forum for current scholarship on literature, media, music and visual culture. A place for rigorous theoretical and critical debate as well as formal and methodological self-reflexivity and experimentation, Criticism aims to present contemporary thought at its most vital.

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Crowds, Power, and Transformation in Cinema

Lesley Brill

From Intolerance to The Silence of the Lambs, motion pictures show crowds and power in complex, usually antagonistic, relationships. Key to understanding this opposition is an intrinsic capability of the cinema: transformation. Making unprecedented use of Elias Canetti's Crowds and Power, Lesley Brill explores crowds, power, and transformation throughout film history. The formation of crowds together with crowd symbols and representations of power create complex, unifying structures in two early masterpieces, The Battleship Potemkin and Intolerance. In Throne of Blood, power-seekers become increasingly isolated, while the crowd of the dead seduces and overwhelms the living. The conflict between crowds and power in Citizen Kane takes place both within the protagonist and between him and the people he tries to master. North by Northwest, Killer of Sheep, and The Silence of the Lambs are rich in hunting and predation and show the crowd as a pack; transformation—true, false, and failed—is the key to both attack and escape. Brill's study provides original insights into canonical movies and shows anew the central importance of transformation in film. Film theorists, critics, and historians will value this fresh and intriguing approach to film classics, which also has much to say about cinema itself and its unique relationship to mass audiences.

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Dark Shadows

Harry M. Benshoff

Explores the cultural, industrial, formal, and generic contexts of the television soap opera Dark Shadows as a precursor to today’s popular gothic media franchises.

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Deadwood

Ina Rae Hark

By dramatizing the intersection of self-interested capitalism and foundational violence in a mining camp in 1870s South Dakota, the HBO series Deadwood reinvented the television Western. In this volume, Ina Rae Hark examines the groundbreaking series from a variety of angles: its relationship to past iterations of the genre on the small screen; its production context, both within the HBO paradigm and as part of the oeuvre of its creator and showrunner David Milch; and its thematics. Hark’s comprehensive analysis also takes into account the series’ trademark use of language: both its unrelenting and ferocious obscenity and the brilliant complexity of its dialogue. Hark argues that Deadwood dissolves several traditional binaries of the Western genre. She demonstrates that while the show appears to pit individuality, savagery, lawlessness, social regulation, and civilization against each other, its narrative shows that apparent opposites are often analogues, and these forces can morph into allies very quickly. Indeed, perhaps the show’s biggest paradox and most profound revelation is that self-interest and communitarianism cannot survive without each other. Hark closely analyzes Al Swearengen (as played by Ian McShane), the character who most embodies this paradox. A brutal cutthroat and purveyor of any vice that can turn him a profit, Swearengen nevertheless becomes the figure who forges connections among the camp’s disparate individuals and shepherds their growth into a community. Deadwood is quintessentially, if unflatteringly, American in what it reveals about the dark underpinnings of national success rooted not in some renewed Eden but in a town that is, in the apt words of one of its promotional taglines, “a hell of a place to make your fortune.” Fans of the show and scholars of television history will enjoy Hark’s analysis of Deadwood.

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Designing Detroit

Wirt Rowland and the Rise of Modern American Architecture

Michael G. Smith

In the early 1900s, Detroit was leading the nation in architectural innovation and designer Wirt Rowland was at the forefront of this advancement, yet few are even aware of his substantial contribution to the evolution of architectural style. It is widely believed that celebrated local architect Albert Kahn designed many of Detroit's structures, such as the General Motors and First National Bank buildings. In fact, while Kahn's efforts were focused on running his highly successful firm, it was Rowland, his chief designer, who was responsible for the appearance and layout of these buildings-an important point in appreciating the contributions of both Kahn and Rowland. During the early twentieth century, Rowland devised a wholly new or "modern" design for buildings, one not reliant on decorative elements copied from architecture of the past. As buildings became more specialized for their intended use, Rowland met the challenge with entirely new design methodologies and a number of improved technologies and materials that subsequently became commonplace. Designing Detroit: Wirt Rowland and the Rise of Modern American Architecture begins with a brief overview of Rowland's early life and career. Author Michael G. Smith goes on to analyze Rowland's achievements in building design and as a leader of Detroit's architectural community throughout both World Wars and the Great Depression. The interdependence of architecture with the city's fluctuating economic prosperity and population growth is explored, illuminating the conditions for good architecture and the arts in general. The author identifies the influence of Jay Hambidge's "dynamic symmetry" in Rowland's work and how it allowed him to employ color as a modern replacement for traditional ornamentation, leading to the revolutionary design of the Union Trust (Guardian) Building, for which he receives nearly unanimous praise in national media. This book is concerned primarily with Rowland's influence on Detroit architecture, but spans beyond his work in Michigan to include the designer's broad reach from New York to Miami. A comprehensive appendix includes extensive lists of Rowland's publications, locations he had designed, and jobs taken on by his firm during his tenure. This book represents new research and insights not previously discussed in either scholarly or general audience texts and will be of interest to casual readers of Detroit history, as well as architecture historians.

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Detroit 1967

Origins, Impacts, Legacies

Edited by Joel Stone With a Foreword by Thomas J. Sugrue

In the summer of 1967, Detroit experienced one of the worst racially charged civil disturbances in United States history. Years of frustration generated by entrenched and institutionalized racism boiled over late on a hot July night. In an event that has been called a "riot," "rebellion," "uprising," and "insurrection," thousands of African Americans took to the street for several days of looting, arson, and gunfire. Law enforcement was overwhelmed, and it wasn't until battle-tested federal troops arrived that the city returned to some semblance of normalcy. Fifty years later, native Detroiters cite this event as pivotal in the city's history, yet few completely understand what happened, why it happened, or how it continues to affect the city today. Discussions of the events are often rife with misinformation and myths, and seldom take place across racial lines. It is editor Joel Stone's intention with Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies to draw memories, facts, and analysis together to create a broader context for these conversations. In order to tell a more complete story, Detroit 1967 starts at the beginning with colonial slavery along the Detroit River and culminates with an examination of the state of race relations today and suggestions for the future. Readers are led down a timeline that features chapters discussing the critical role that unfree people played in establishing Detroit, the path that postwar manufacturers within the city were taking to the suburbs and eventually to other states, as well as the widely held untruth that all white people wanted to abandon Detroit after 1967. Twenty contributors, from journalists like Tim Kiska, Bill McGraw, and Desiree Cooper to historians like DeWitt S. Dykes, Danielle L. McGuire, and Kevin Boyle, have individually created a rich body of work on Detroit and race, that is compiled here in a well-rounded, accessible volume. Detroit 1967 aims to correct fallacies surrounding the events that took place and led up to the summer of 1967 in Detroit, and to encourage informed discussion around this topic. Readers of Detroit history and urban studies will be drawn to and enlightened by these powerful essays.

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Detroit

City of Race and Class Violence, Revised Edition

B. J. Widick

Beginning with the legacy of the Ku Klux Klan and the industrial tyranny of the early twentieth century, Detroit: City of Race and Class Violence charts Detroit’s bitter history through the birth of industrial unionism, war time, the 1967 riots, and their effect on the city today. This revised edition pays particular attention to events since 1967: city politics, unemployment, and the creation of suburban boomtowns.

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The Detroit Public Library

An American Classic

Barbara Madgy Cohn and Patrice Rafail Merritt

For the last century, the Detroit Public Library has ranked as one of the most beautiful buildings in Detroit - an important landmark as well as a significant monument serving generations of Detroiters. The Detroit Public Library: An American Classic was born out of "Discover the Wonders," an art and architectural tour of the main library that began in December 2013. Since the tour's inception, around seven thousand people have visited this structural gem. The Detroit Public Library was the result of numerous requests for a book that showcases the library's many artistic and architectural wonders. As the photographs in this book reveal, the Detroit Public Library stands as an enduring symbol of the public library, one of the most democratic institutions in America. The design of the Detroit Public Library was Cass Gilbert's vision for Detroit's Early Italian Renaissance-style library. This book honors his work with a chronological and photographic timeline of the conception and building of the 1921 Woodward Avenue Library, the 1963 Cass Avenue addition, and the library as it is today. The book goes through the library's transformative years, documenting the contributions of local and national artists such as Mary Chase Perry Stratton, Gari Melchers, and John Stephens Coppin, and includes photographs of the rooms they have decorated with murals, mosaics, painted windows, bronze works, architectural elements, and ornamentation. In preparing The Detroit Public Library, the authors had two fundamental desires, as they note in their preface. The first was to celebrate the main library's design using both historic and contemporary images, the latter contributed by a number of photographers presently working in Detroit. The second was "to share with the world the beauty and elegance of a grand building in a great city that, even through the most difficult times, has sustained one of the most magnificent neo-classical buildings in the country." The Detroit Public Library unites the interests of history buffs, art enthusiasts, library lovers, and Detroit-area locals with a tribute to one of the city's most impressive structures. This book will appeal to those looking to learn about the builders, the history, and the stories that brought the Detroit Public Library to fruition.

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The Detroit Riot of 1967

Hubert G. Locke

During the last days of July 1967, Detroit experienced a week of devastating urban collapse-the worst civil disorder in twentieth-century America. Forty-three people were killed, over $50 million in property was destroyed, and the city itself was left in a state of panic and confusion, the scars of which are still present today. Now for the first time in paperback and with a new reflective essay that examines the events a half-century later, The Detroit Riot of 1967 (originally published in 1969) is the story of that terrible experience as told from the perspective of Hubert G. Locke, then administrative aide to Detroit's police commissioner. The book covers the week between the riot's outbreak and the aftermath thereof. An hour-by-hour account is given of the looting, arson, and sniping, as well as the problems faced by the police, National Guard, and federal troops who struggled to restore order. Locke goes on to address the situation as outlined by the courts, and the response of the community-including the media, social and religious agencies, and civic and political leadership. Finally, Locke looks at the attempt of white leadership to forge a new alliance with a rising, militant black population; the shifts in political perspectives within the black community itself; and the growing polarization of black and white sentiment in a city that had previously received national recognition as a "model community in race relations." The Detroit Riot of 1967 explores many of the critical questions that confront contemporary urban America and offers observations on the problems of the police system and substantive suggestions on redefining urban law enforcement in American society. Locke argues that Detroit, and every other city in America, is in a race with time-and thus far losing the battle. It has been fifty years since the riot and federal policies are needed now more than ever that will help to protect the future of urban America. All historians, from professional to novice, will find value in this compelling account of a marked moment in American history.

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