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HUMANITIES 591 gaze, yet 'owns her body'; one who enhances the artifice of gender and sexual relations, but shows commitment to an 'honest portrayal' of nastiness; one whose gender traducing qualifies as inclusive, though she 'fails to satisfy a gay standard' of resistance. Though I concur with Faith that dyadic or exclusive interpretations of Madonna are inadequate, and though I sympathize fully with the author's qualified attraction to the performer, I also feel that·the popular and academic presses (especially the 1993 Mado11na Connection) have drawn ample attention to the provocative and troublesome politics of Madonna, and that an wunitigated focus on relativity may allow for nnexplained slippages among analytical modes. When humanist and postmodern assumptions of identity are simultaneously or alternately mobilized- as they are in this text- what is the theoretical relationship between them, and what determines their opposition, complementarity, or hierarchy? Why, for instance, do Madonna 's assertions about power and control generally signify as factual, while her self-identification with gay men- surely a pushing past binaries -receives a failing grade? Why commend Madonna as a role model for young women, only to dismiss (in a single paragraph, the penultimate one of the chapter) the issue as false, implying unavailable consensual standards? That said, Faith shrewdly uncovers various ways in which Madonna discomfits viewers, including the apropos comment that Madonna disturbs some feminists precisely because she evokes 'longing for the perfect, politically conscious and articulate woman to represent us on world stages.' Faith, conversely, subordinates her own uneasiness to relish Madonna as the Whore who revamps the term from the inside, and whose body (bawdy) becomes a flagrant signifier of cultural contradictions in the inevitably compromised script of success. For Faith, Madonna's flirtation with seeminglyincommensurate culturalfantasies is finally whatfrustrates our standards and compels our attention. (GRACE KEHLER) Bruce Elder. A Body ofVision: Representation ofthe Body in Recent Film al1d Poetry Wilfrid Laurier University Press. 400. $49·95 An internationally acknowledged experimental filmmaker, Bruce Elder is also a critic best known for the seminal Image and Identity: Reflections on Canadian Film and Culture (1989). A synoptic interpretive account of Canadian experimental cinema centred on the painter-filmmakers Jack Chambers and Michael Snow, that book opened new terrain in Canadian film studies. American experimental art and film were a stalking horse throughout Image and Identity, and inevitably Elder turned to them separately. This is the first of two books encompassing the 'American' 592 LETTERS IN CANADA 1997 project; its sequet The Films ofStan Brakhage in the American Tradition ofEzra Pound, Gertrude Stein and Charles Olson is forthcoming in 1998. Given first form as a film series 'The Body in Film' at the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1989, A Body of Vision opens with the claim that the body is the last stand of the individual and the imagination against modernity and its handymen, technology and the instrumentally reduced model oflanguage. This is a blunt declaration of Elder's critical affinity with postwar American art, which, in every important zone of its activity, seized on this perspective. American poets, painters, and filmmakers have gone about creating an art of resistance centred on the body, and Elder's intention is to analyse a select group of the film artists, and to provide accounts of the poetry and thought that shaped them. Writing such a book now is itself a defiant gesture of cultural reclamation, since contemporary 'Body Criticism' with its fetishistic 'cybernetic' concept of corporeality is exactly the opposite. The thinkers and poets Elder enlists seem initially an odd assortmentImmanuel Kant, Ernest Becker, Wilhelm Reich, Luce Irigaray, Antonin Artaud, Julia Kristeva, Gnosticism and the Kabbala- but the filmmakers are obviously directly pertinent and in several cases these are the first sustained critical discussions of their works despite their assured reputations as experimental artists. The key filnunakers of the book are Willard Maas and Marie Menken, Ed Emshwiller, Carolee Schneemann, James Herbert, and Andrew Noren. There are also shorter discussions of Bruce Conner,James Broughton, and Amy Greenfield. Stan Brakhage is discussed here as welL but glancingly, in expectation of the next book. The obvious strength of A Body ofVision comes from the very full critical accounts of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 591-593
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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