- Editor’s Note
Movies, medieval poetry, music, translation, children’s literature: the media and genres discussed in the articles in this latest edition of Pacific Coast Philology reflect the diverse interests of the members of our organization, and of scholars who have chosen to publish their research in our journal. In her President’s Address, Katherine Kinney explores the theme of the 2018 PAMLA conference, “Actors, Roles, Stages,” in the interstices of highbrow theatrical traditions and cinematic genre formulae such as the horror movie and the sci-fi thriller. What Kinney calls “the truth, the persistence, and the decay of fiction” resonates not only in the four movies she discusses in her President’s Address, but also serves as an apt introduction to Patrick Milian’s article on Steve Reich’s composition Different Trains. Milian’s reference to “history’s recurring and highly mediated experience within the present” has a corollary in Angela Ridinger-Dotterman’s discussion of representations of twentieth-century American social history in an altogether different genre, children’s literature. Takayuki Yokota-Murakami’s discernment of translations and “translational texts” contrasts modern “Western” translation theories with the translations of Japanese linked texts that capture the spirit of their indeterminacy. Sarah Bernthal’s article on female agency in a twelfth-century French literary text draws “a parallel between female bodies and the texts and textiles women fabricate to tell their stories.”
Katherine Kinney begins her President’s Address, “I Learned It at the Movies,” with a reflection on an argument from Frank Kermode’s The Sense of an [End Page 1] Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction: “[F]ictions of the ends of the world have always been with us. They are themselves a way of making sense of the world, rather than simply marking the unraveling of sense making.” For Kinney, such fictions loosen boundaries between “high” and “low” culture, theater and cinema, Method Acting and the blockbuster. Quiz Show (1994) undermines “Arnoldian ideals of great minds and great books” when its Arnoldian representative, a quiz show contestant, turns out to have been thoroughly prepped. Having received answers before the show, he embodies the staging of highbrow knowledge for television audiences. While Quiz Show nostalgically laments the loss of such knowledge, A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) foregrounds the resources of the film actor/actress in making sense of a “high” and a “low” cultural end-of-the-world fiction. In this movie, cross-fertilizations of Hamlet and the horror genre result, among other things, in the wounding of the female protagonist: “The mark of Nancy’s burn brings the threat of violence back to scale, where it cannot be explained away by adults within the film or laughed away by the audience.” Kinney discusses this mark as “felt experience” and explores its ability to make sense of an apocalyptic fiction like The Matrix (1999). Focusing on the voice of the actress (Gloria Foster) who plays “the Oracle,” Kinney traces Foster’s vocal modulations in this movie back to her theatrical work in avant-garde productions—Forster’s “felt experience,” so to speak—and thus offers further evidence for the body-based meaning-making capacity of the film actor/actress. In contrast to the doomsday fictions of the horror and the sci-fi genre, Birdman (2014) locates liminality in the vanishing line between the Broadway stage and Hollywood (specifically, the superhero of the action blockbuster). Broadway is represented in terms of a highly intensified Method Acting whose extreme physicality is ambivalently tied to the seemingly infinite reach of the blockbuster movie that has already transformed everyday life outside Broadway theaters. In Birdman, the actor’s felt experience includes perilous negotiations of both extremes.
Sarah Bernthal’s “Dismemberment and Remembrance in the Lais of Marie de France” begins with a detailed discussion of scholarship on this text as well as on the theme of dismemberment in medieval French literature. After distinguishing the representation of female dismemberment in the twelfth-century Lais from Roman du Castelain de Couci et de la dame de Fayel, Bernthal concentrates largely on parallels and contrasts between a particular narrative in the Lais, Laüstic, and Ovid’s...