Tuesday, June 15

Los Angeles writer & publisher Jack Grapes, longtime beginning-level workshop leader, editor of ONTHEBUS and http://www.bombshelterpress.com/, and author of TREES, COFFEE, AND THE EYES OF EYES of DEER, BREAKING DOWN THE SURFACE OF THE WORLD, etc. reads with and presents three former students,

Kathleen Matson,
Chris Kerr,
and Marianne Franco (A RAG DOLLS HOUSE).

Barnes & Noble Westwood
10850 West Pico Blvd.
West Los Angeles, CA 90064

corner of Westwood & Pico in the Westside Pavilion Mall
free parking in the mall
free brownies


conversation in kitchen area about "forbade" being a word -- after the guy who was saying it wasn't, I walked out (commuter mug of sugar free hot chocolate in hand)

"forbade is a word" me
[giggles] "boys are stupid"

Fortunately, noon passed without a company-wide "call to moment of silence."

Hi. I know this might bounce back because I subscribe on both my personal e-mail addresses, but I can't get to those 12 hours a day now.

This is the sort of thing all too common in the less glossy companies (the Countrywide employees are largely working class or of working class background; few are college-educated when they begin employment; few send their children to college) in the private sector that I feel is not only an extraordinary presumption (with its Orwellian "five minute hate" quality), but pernicious -- it ultimately degrades political will -- perhaps more pernicious than the lack of free speech in the workplace.

All best,
Catherine Daly

This message is being sent to all CFC personnel by Angelo R. Mozilo, Chairman and CEO.

In 1994, former President Ronald Reagan stated, "When the Lord calls me home, whenever that day may be, I will leave with the greatest love for this country of ours and eternal optimism for its future."

Ronald Wilson Reagan was born on February 6, 1911 in the town of Tampico, Illinois. His life’s journey took him from his early roots as a lifeguard and athlete to stardom on the silver screen. From 1947 to 1952, and again from 1959 to 1960, Reagan served as president of the Screen Actors Guild. Commencing his first term in office as Governor of California in 1966, Reagan easily won re-election in 1970. In 1980, at the age of 69, Reagan became the 40th President of the United States. Known during his presidency for his supply-side economics in response to the nation’s then double-digit inflation and high unemployment rate, Reagan urged the country to "stay the course." The economy rebounded into prosperity, lasting an unparalleled eight years. Winning re-election in 1984, he achieved an unprecedented landslide, capturing victory in 49 states. Fostering a strong relationship with Russian Secretary General Gorbachev, in 1987 the two men signed a treaty to eliminate intermediate-range nuclear missiles. After his departure from the White House in 1988, Reagan continued as the elder statesman of the Republican Party through his last public appearances in 1994.

Tomorrow, Friday, June 11, 2004, has been declared a national day of mourning in honor of former President Reagan. I ask that all CFC employees join me in observing a moment of silence. Each manager should lead the moment with his/her team, which will be observed at precisely 12 noon EDT (11am CDT, 9am PDT), concurrent with the 21-gun salute held in his honor in Washington, D.C. Please also join me in extending our thoughts and prayers to the Reagan family in their time of grief. Thank you.

Mary Wollstonecraft

“criticism of misogynist images of women in literature”


“Hatred of women.” – Samuel Johnson, author of the first dictionary.

How does literature contain “hatred of women”?

Why would anyone hate women?

Why would an image in a book have an affect on women in real life?

What does literature represent?

What does literature enforce?

“Hatred of women”? Discuss in the discussion thread. Can you think of examples from literature?

Why would anyone hate women? Well, for power or money. What other reasons?

Why would an image in a book affect women in real life?

What does Wollstonecraft say about men and “masculine women”?

Essays as Literature

What does literature represent? Life? Reality?

What does literature enforce? Culture, for one. What else? What aspects of culture and society?

How is essay writing literature? Essays are a different genre than novels. They are (well, mostly) nonfictional, as opposed to fictional. Are they literary in a different way than fiction? Do you read them differently?

Not only education, but the “right” education

Not equality so much as freedom from tyranny and oppression

Do women have different or fewer rights than men?

What kind of rights? Political? Economic? Legal?

How are women valued? Why?

How is that different from how men are valued? Why

Mary Wollstonecraft

How did she do it, herself?


Support of friends.

Writing, and the support of a circle of other writers, including Thomas Paine and William Blake.

Who was Thomas Paine? How does he depict women and men differently than Mary Wollstonecraft?

Who was William Blake? How does he depict women and men differently than Mary Wollstonecraft?

Who’s Milton? What did he write?

Alexander Pope?

Have you heard of the French political philosopher Rousseau?

Women in Milton

Wollstonecraft writes:

Thus Milton describes our first frail mother; though he tells us that women are formed for softness and sweet attractive grace, I cannot comprehend his meaning…

She wrote this about PARADISE LOST, Milton’s epic poem about the “fall of man” after the Garden of Eden. He wrote:

For contemplation he and valor form’d
For softness she and attractive grace;
He for God only, she for God in him

Especially those of you who are familiar with common religious interpretations of the story of Adam and Eve will find it easy to understand what Milton was saying about “He for God only, she for God in him” (regarding the story of the rib).

“Sweet and attractive grace?” Hardly a way I, as a modern woman, would have thought of Eve….

But we have had the full benefit of Wollstonecraft!

Women and Milton

Milton didn't actually "write" Paradise Lost. He was blind by the time he dictated it line by line to his daughters.

He deliberately didn’t allow his daughters to have an education beyond writing down his dictation and reading it back:

He trained to read to him in English, Latin, Greek, Italian, French, Spanish, and Hebrew, though they did not understand a word of what they read. What little we know of their relations to their father is not pleasant.

Anne Bradstreet

Anne Bradstreet was the first *good* poet in what became the United States.

Bradstreet wrote before Wollstonecraft.

Her poetry mentions her “outward” conformity and “inward” rebeliousness.

The women who wrote captivity narratives during her time were careful to show their conformity (many women were executed or banished -- which, in the frontier, meant death, usually -- for not conforming.

Wollstonecraft: “Women are told… and taught by example… outward obedience… will obtain for them protection…”

Women in Alexander Pope

Alexander Pope was a poet who wrote in “heroic” couplets in the “Augustan” style, which is, in many ways, the opposite fo the “Romantic” style Mary Shelley, her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, and his friends would establish.

You know these couplets! He wrote, “fools rush in where angels fear to tread” and many, many more sayings!

His top hits were “An Essay on Man” and “The Rape of the Lock”

“The Rape of the Lock” is about a haircut of a beautiful woman

Wollstonecraft objected to Pope’s “Of the Characters of Women”

Alexander Pope was a dwarfish hunchback who had a difficult relationship with women. But that's an "ad hominam" attack -- what does "ad hominam" mean? How is it important to a study of women in literature?

All of these lectures were originally powerpoint slide presentations (can't you tell?) with loads of graphics, etc.

Virgina Woolf and Second Wave Feminism

Virginia Woolf's work was crucial to second wave feminism -- sometimes associated with the "sexual revolution" in the sixties and seventies --

you know the icons: Betty Freidan, Germaine Greer, Gloria Steinem and the founding of Ms. magazine....

Virginia Woolf and Women in Literature

"The title women and fiction might mean... women and what they are like; or it might mean women and the fiction that they write; or it might mean women and the fiction that is written about them..."

Virginia Woolf and Modern Literature

While World War I. has faded in the common, popular consciousness to "just another war." In the historical chain of incessant wars, however, it was not viewed that way by the people of the time. The Great War was seen as a watershed, the end of an old, gracious, ordered, monarchical, patriarchical, familiar world. In its place, there quickly arose a world of the new, the savage, the disordered, the democratic and demagogic, dictatorial, formless, and unfamiliar world. Writers and artists quickly realized that the "old world" ideas were embedded in the old world practices, and they began searching for new methods to reflect the environment they inhabited. Cubism, surrealism, expressionism were all attempts of the plastic arts to respond to Twentieth Century conditions - and writers like Virginia Woolf were doing the same for literature.



LIke a writer we will study later in the term, Mary Shelley, Virginia Woolf wrote within a circle of artist and writer friends:

Vanessa Stephen & Clive Bell, Thoby Stephen, Virginia Stephen & Leonard Woolf, Adrian Stephen, Roger Fry, Duncan Grant, and Dora Carrington.

This is called the Bloomsbury group after their neighborhood in the London suburbs. There are plenty of movies and books about these folks, in addition to those they wrote --

Virginia Woolf and Women in Literature

Feminist literary theories until Gilbert and Gubar focused on analyses of "images of women" in mostly male authors.

Their first book written together shifted away from literary criticism of women as object to be written into the text (women "in" literature) to that of women as the subject of writing (literature by and about women).

Gilbert & Gubar

Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar wrote several very comprehensive books about women in literature and women's literature, *excellent paper sources*:

The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination, 1979

No Man's Land: The Place of the Woman Writer in the Twentieth Century, Three Volume work

Norton Anthology of Literatue by Women

Shakespeare's Sisters: Feminist Essays on Women Writers and Feminism and Modernism

The LAPL has jillions of copies! Note the title of the last one... "Shakespeare's Sisters" -- who is that from?

Beyond Gilbert & Gubar

Gilbert and Gubar's attempt to "discover women's history" was new. Looking back now, there are many drawbacks

1) the experiences of all women were assumed to be the same -- all women were assumed to be the same in some way

2) the "male" or traditional ways of viewing writing -- about issues like "authority" and "history" were applied to women -- but are these the main critical concerns of female writers?

3) placing men and women in opposition


Virginia Woolf was a novelist and essayist.

Her novels include Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, Orlando, and The Waves.

Her book of essays The Common Reader is a must-read for future essayists.

When she writes in A Room of One’s Own, she is writing from a standpoint of expertise as a female fiction writer and as a critic.

Woolf and Fiction

While Woolf explores many themes in Mrs. Dalloway, one of the themes she explores is the superficiality and artificiality of an upper middle class housewife, Clarissa Dalloway.

In To the Lighthouse, the main character is a woman who is a housewife but also a “Sunday painter.” She also discusses the education of children in this work of fiction.

Female Writers in Woolf

Jane Austen, author of comedies of manners in the early 1800s: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Persuasion.

“The Brontes” Charlotte Bronte (Jane Eyre), Emily Bronte (Wuthering Heights). Ann Bronte also wrote. During their lifetimes, they published under male pseudonyms.

George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) wrote Adam Bede, Mill on the Floss, Middlemarch, and Daniel Deronda, among other novels. She wrote under a male pseudonym.

George Sand (Amandine-Aurore-Lucile Dupin) wrote in French. She wrote under a male pseudonym.

Values and Standards

Woolf mentions a great deal of fiction written by women in A Room of One’s Own. Especially in the later chapters, she is involved with discussing reasons why this writing is “bad” and possibilities she sees for a “woman’s sentence” and for “good” writing by women.

Among her standards:

Education in the craft of writing revealed on the page.

Lack of “hysteria.”

Careful, accurate observation.

Big topics. What's hysteria?


Since most female writers have read A Room of One’s Own, and certainly have read Virginia Woolf, certainly this book has influenced not only writing and the writing lives of women, but also it has contributed the terms if discourse for much women’s writing (especially that of upper middle class white women in English in the 20th Century, which is the lion’s share of women’s writing in the 20th Century).

A Room and an Income

Education / Access to Cultural Institutions

Writing as a Woman

Shakespeare’s Sister

“Recovering” Women’s Writing

A Room and an Income

When Woolf writes of a room and an income, she writes about freedom: freedom from being disturbed (a lock on the door), freedom to observe what one sees rather than respecting societal expectations for those observation, and freedom to “ruminate” or think.

Ironically, Charles Lamb, who Woolf cites, wrote his brilliant essays hurriedly, for money, to support his sister, who had killed their mother with a butchers’ knife. With her brother Charles, Mary Lamb retold Shakespeare’s tales for children ("Lamb's Tales").

How is privacy related to making personal thoughts and feelings public?

How is freedom related to narrative? How wouldn't it be?

Freedom and Narrative

What does Virigina Woold write about the sentence? Does it make sense?

How are sentences related to grammar? How are sentences related to stories?

These are not obvious questions -- how does the shape of a sentence relate to a story? How is a sentence gendered -- aside from its content, in its very structure? How is a story differ? In its "flow"? Descriptiveness? Is there no difference?

How are Virginia Woolf's lectures different from lectures or sermons my men that you have read?

Shakespeare's Sister

Just as Woolf uses narrative in the first chapter to illustrate how a woman might be continually interrupted from her thinking by rules and expectations, so Woolf makes up a story of a sister of Shakespeare’s who does not have the types of education and access that Shakespeare has.


Right now, there are still onging efforts to get women access to the political process.

Where's the female president? Why are there fewer female politicians? Corproate leaders?

What are the female-dominated professions?

What are male dominated professions?

[Did you know that when my Mom started working, there were different sections in the classifieds for jobs for women and jobs for men?]

Emily’s List is a political action committee which was started to fund female candidates for political office, regardless of their positions on issues. It was founded because women, even wealthy women, tend not to donate as large a percentage of money to political campaigns as men, while campaign funding is crucial to winning elections: this represents a focus, like Woolf’s, on economic remedies to problems such as under-representation of women in government (even in first world countries).

Writing as a Woman

Writing as a woman, but not only as a woman: in other words, Woolf is looking for a sincere and authentic mode of expression which transcends gender and other aspects of identity.

"In rereading Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own for the first time in some years, I was astonished at the sense of effort, of pains taken, of dogged tentativeness, in the tone of that essay. And I recognized that tone. I had heard it often enough, in myself and in other women. It is the tone of a woman almost in touch with her anger, who is determined not to appear angry, who is willing herself to be calm, detached, and even charming in a roomful of men where things have been said which are attacks on her very integrity.” Adrienne Rich

Recovering Women's Writing

From what?

Woolf’s views have affected the terms of discourse regarding talking about women’s writing and recovering women’s writing. For example, some truly excellent women’s writing was never published during the lifetime of the author, was published obscurely and quickly went out of print, or was never adopted by male scholars as part of the literary canon. But why?

Was the lost or forgotten women’s writing bad?
Because good or bad, everyone says it is bad.

What is “female” about it?

Is what is female about it “bad”? Or just "other"?

Some recent scholarship focuses on ways the writing is not bad, i.e., ways literary standards are gendered “male.”

Women's Writing

Some women’s writing is really bad, though. For this work, scholars are beginning to consider which standards the author was measuring her work against, which standards society / publishers / critics were measuring the work against, and ways in which the work succeeds.

For example, “Genteel Poetry” was largely written by women at the time Emily Dickinson was writing her incredible (and virtually unpublished) verse.

But it wasn't very "good" -- it didn't contain any truth, and it wasn't beautiful either. Sentimental stuff about babies being like angels, etc.

"Fiction will be much better for standing cheek by jowl with poetry and philosophy. Moreover, if you consider a great figure of the past, like Sappho, like the Lady Murasaki, like Emily Bronte, you will find that she is an inheritor as well as an
originator…" Virginia Woolf


Virginia Woolf lived in and around a number of very fine artists, literary critics, and writers in an area of London called Bloomsbury.
Dylan in Journey:

Walks like a lady
Oh, but she cries like a little girl
Walks like a lady
Yes, but she cries like a little girl
Walks like a lady,
walks like a lady
cries like a little girl


two definitions of postmodern from the postmodern bible

The name "postmodern" is explained in two ways pragmatic and more theoretical.



Three "ages of commentary" the postmodern being multimedia / intermedia


Science Fiction as a Genre

Detective Fiction / Noir is a genre, and we've seen it is a genre which lends itself to moral / existential themes.

Science fiction, often called speculative fiction, or, in Dick's case, pre-cyberpunk and beyond, is another genre.

What types of themes does science fiction, as a genre, explore?

Adaptation and Dick

One of the striking thing about Philip K. Dick's stories is that, like Chandler and Hammett's short stories in the detective fiction "pulps" before World War II were the basis of many many films and other books, many, many of Dick's stories in the Science Fiction pulps of the Vietnam War period are also adapted into films: Minority Report, Bladerunner, Total Recall, Impostor, Screamers, certainly an influence on Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind...


Biography, Autobiography, and Literature

THE LITTLE FOXES is a play by Lillian Hellman which was turned into a classic film by the same title.

Lillian Hellman, while she became in many ways both the quinessential New York writer AND an iconic Hollywood screenwriter, was born and raised (at least half of the time) in the South.

Her mother's family was part of the model for the family in THE LITTLE FOXES. Her general experience of like in the American south also informed the play.

Hellman wrote several memoirs, including AN UNFINISHED WOMAN, PENTIMENTO, and SCOUNDREL TIME.

Biography and Literature

Using biography to elucidate or explain literature is something which is often tempting to the undergraduate student of literature early in his or her career, but it is also a potential source of erroneaous readings of texts.

For example, Hellman's memoirs are fictionalized. This is different from using fictional devices in memoir (many memoirs use fictional devices, such as structural or narration techniques borrowed from novels). Is fictionalizing a memoir lying?

Thus, you can see that even when an autobiography by an author says x about the authors motivations and models for a work of literature y, the autobiography might not be accurate.

Some Critical Approaches

Biographical Criticism
New Criticism
New Historicism

Biographical Criticism and Lillian Hellman

Yes, indeed, sometimes it seems students who write biographies of authors or resort to reading biographies rather than reading literary critics as paper sources haven't read the text at all! In a work of fiction (and this is important going forward, preparing to read Philip K. Dick's short science fiction), how relevant is the author's life?

In a work of fiction, how can or does the author change details, etc. from real life? For example, my husband, who, like myself, is a writer, frequently uses names and jokes and funny experiences friends and family have had in his movies. Does this mean anything? Does this mean anything different than the same quotes or names or scenes would mean if you didn't know they were "taken from life" and changed?

New Criticism and Lillian Hellman

New Criticism Occurred Partially in Response To:

Biographical Criticism that understood art primarily as a reflection of the author's life (sometimes to the point that the texts themselves weren't even read!).

New forms of *mass literature and literacy*, an increasingly consumerist society and the increasingly visible role of commerce, mass media, and advertising in people's lives. LIKE FILM!

Hellman's THE LITTLE FOXES is a "well made play" -- it is formal and self-sufficient. If you read the play closely without attention to Hellman and her experience, but simply finding the themes (greed, family history, "progress," social standing) and discussing what these themes say about history, about morals, what they satirize, you are giving the play a reading indebted to New Criticism.

Marxist Criticism

Consciousness, in broader terms, is our history, economy, philosophy, religion, psychology, literature and culture

Existence, that is to say, the material conditions we find ourselves in determine our consciousness.

When do the characters in THE LITTLE FOXES know what they know?

What sort of moral and social assumptions and conventions rule the different characters (i.e., Birdie is from a different culture, both Birdie and Horace were married for money)?

How does this change the meanings of the play?

New Historicism and Lillian Hellman and Dashiell Hammett

New Historicism Occurred in Response to:

"New" Criticism's tendency to treat works of literature in a historical vacuum, as if a poem or novel had no relation to its historical context whatsoever.

Political developments in the 1960s, especially a desire on the part of literature professors to figure out how understanding literature might help in understanding social problems.

New Historicist Premises:

Images and narratives do important cultural work. They function as a kind of workshop (or playroom) where cultural problems, hopes, and obsessions are addressed or avoided.

Lillian Hellman

Lillian Hellman dated Dashiell Hammett even before he divorced his wife. She didn't begin publishing seriously until he stopped publishing seriously. They are a well known hard-drinking, hard writing, leftist Hollywood couple.

Lillian Hellman's theatre work is mostly based on characters she knew from her life, including her family (on her mother's side, a wealthy family in the South). While much of her film work is political, she wrote the screenplay for THE LITTLE FOXES (remember, Hammett only wrote some screenplays for his novels -- Shakespeare certainly didn't write the screenplays of his plays!)


Like Hammett, she was a leftist -- she opposed Hitler very early in his rise to power because he was a fascist, but she remained sympathetic to the others who had fought fascism -- the communists. She wrote many political screenplays during World War II.

From an excellent online source of scholarly biography:

When Hammett was serving his sentence for refusing to cooperate with the House of Representatives Committee on Un-American Activities, his lawyer adviced Hellman to leave the country. America had at that time became very worried about the spread of Communism. She sailed to Europe with William Wyler, who knew she was broke and paid her fare and hotel bill. In 1952 Hellman was called to appear before HUAC. She refused to reveal the names of associates and friends in the theatre who might have Communist associations, but she wasn't charged with contempt of Congress. In a letter to the Committee she wrote: "But the hurt innocent people whom I knew many years ago in order to save myself is, to me, inhuman and indecent and dishonorable. I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year's fashions, even though I long ago came to the conclusion that I was not a political person and could have no comfortable place in any political group..." Hellman was excused by the committee, with the remark: "Why cite her for contempt? After all, she is a woman..."


About the Hollywood Blacklist:

Who was blacklisted? Well, how many names of screenwriters (rather than novelists) from the 1930s and 1940s do you know? Almost everyone in Hollywood was questioned, from Lucille Ball, to Charlie Chaplin (who was kept out of the country), to some of the German emigres here in the US only to escape the Nazis in Europe! (famous playwright Bertoldt Brecht, for example).

Of the blacklisted writers and performers, more than 90 percent never worked again.

Laws and Entertainment and Literature

Like the Hays Code & censorship, the House Un-American Committee and the blacklist changed Hollywood -- and Broadway -- forever.

Apolitical novels, plays, and screenplays are more likely to be made than political ones.

How is literature and film political?

Is there a difference between literature about ideas (the "novel of ideas", the "cabinet play", the "issue based" tv episode, or even the political film, like REDS) and entertainment?

Can politics be entertaining?

Are new political shows and films (MASH, can you think of more recent examples...) not popular?
The Maltese Falcon

One of the striking things to me, this time reading THE MALTESE FALCON, was its visual quality.

Hammett describes his characters and situations visually -- this seems to lend the novel well to film.

For example, he starts the novel with a description of the main character:

"Samuel Spade's jaw was long and bony..." The paragraph's end is, "He looked rather pleasantly like a blond satan." Thus, in describing how he LOOKS, he is describing how he IS. How is Spade a "blonde satan"?

How is Humphrey Bogart the perfect Spade?

Bogart & Detective Fiction

Humphrey Bogart also plays the lead in another classic noir film, from an equally famous detective novel, this time by Raymond Chandler, THE BIG SLEEP.

Raymond Chandler, like Dashiell Hammett, worked on screenplays as well as on novels and short stories. Chandler, like Hammett, knew *really famous* novelist William Faulkner, during Faulkner's Hollywood period.

[A character based on William Faulkner is in the Cohen Brothers' neo noir film BARTON FINK]

Hammett drank with Faulkner in New York even before that.

Film Noir Essays Online

Film Noir and the Hard-Boiled Detective Hero

Because Hammett is the original "hard boiled" detective novelist, a great deal of this essay is about THE MALTESE FALCON.

"It was in this atmosphere — with the airy-mannered amateur detective still going strong, and with early film noir beginning to question the legitimacy of this image — that first-time director John Huston adapted for the screen Dashiell Hammett's most famous novel, The Maltese Falcon. Hammett's novel had been filmed twice before, but neither movie had attempted to capture the full impact of the novel's bleak and uncompromising vision of urban America or the unheroic aspects of its hero. Indeed, the second version, Satan Met a Lady (Warner Bros., 1936), seemed incapable of deciding whether to be a screwball comedy or a murder mystery."

Many Hammett fans are disappointed in his highly lucrative THE THIN MAN series of "softer" stories loosely based on the early stage of his relationship with Liilian Hellman, the next author we'll be studying.


Movie stills from The Maltese Falcon and Motion Picture and Television Picture Archive:


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How is a frame from a motion picture different from a photograph? How is a promotional photograph different from a still?

How is a page of a book different from a section of the book? How is a short story different from a novel?

Direct Experience vs. Literature

Hammett WAS a private detective -- like Spade, he was a detective in the Bay area; like an earlier character of his, who was never named (he's referred to as "Continental Op" by Hammett fans), he worked for a private agency

the famous (or infamous) PINKERTON'S agency

while Hammett became a leftist when he became political, as a Pinkerton's agent, he was called out to bust mining strikes during the 20s

Hammett had no formal higher education; Raymond Chandler grew up in England, and attended "public school" there (which is very expensive private education).

Scholarly Essays on Noir Online

No Place for a Woman: The Family in Film Noir

Film Noir's Progressive Portrayal of Women

The Outer Limits of Film Noir

10 Shades of Noir

The introduction to FILM NOIR

As Photography is to Painting, so Film is to … Literature?

The title of this slide is an analogy.

When photography was first developed, many (especially painters) people feared it would replace painting. It did not! But photography replaced certain types of painting, and photography split into art photography and representative photography.

What’s the difference between representative photography and non-representative photography?

What does "representation" mean?

Did painting only turn to abstraction after the development of photography?

The “look and feel” of Film Noir is based partially on budget constraints: they were movies that were cheap to film.

Is it art? What did budget and World War II have to do with whether or not the films are art?

Can films that aren't art at the time they were released become art? Or are they only studied as "cultural artifacts"?

Can novels that aren't art at the time they were released become art? Or are they only studied as "cultural artifacts"?

So Film is to … Literature?

When film was first developed, many (especially writers) feared it would replace books. It did not!
When tv was first developed, many (especially filmmakers) feared it would replace movies. It did not!

What’s the difference between film, tv, and books?

Did writing only turn to abstraction / experiment after the development of film? How do you explain the popularity of a writer like Hammet at the same time a writer like James Joyce is writing?

Is any novel-writing art?

Genre: Compare and Contrast: Classification

When we use the term "genre" in Literature and Film Studies, the question 'To what genre does this literary work or film belong?' means, in other words, 'what kind or type of literary work or film is this?'

Genre study then, commences with description and with classification. To place a work within a genre, we must be able to describe the individual film and we must be able to explain the principles on which it can be meaningfully associated with others of its kind



Representation is concerned with the way that people, ideas and events are presented to us through media texts. It is a process of construction, actively constructing meanings about the world and re-presenting them.

In our investigation of texts and other representations it will be useful to ask the questions posed by Richard Dyer when considering representation in popular television:

What sense of the world is it (the media text) making?
What does it claim is typical of the world and what deviant?
Who is really speaking? For Whom?
What does it represent to us and why?



There are various ways of exploring cinematic realism and of investigating the critical debates surrounding it. A useful start may be to divide it into form and content- realism of form and realism of content: films which are realistic in form are arranged sequentially.


Are films "realistic"? What types of novels or stories are realistic? Which types aren't?

Is time treated realistically in a film or book, or are there devices, like flashbacks, voice-over, or montage sequences to move the story along?


"Verisimilitude" means "the appearance of truth." Just because something seems to be true doesn’t necessarily mean that it is true.

Is any photography art?


teaching this led to the noir poems in the ms. DYSTOPIA (currently entered in the NPS and at SLOPE)

Film Noir / Detective Fiction

Famous detective novels turned into films include Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon, The Thin Man (which became a series of films starring William Powell and Myrna Loy), Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep and THE LADY IN THE LAKE, and James M. Cain's POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE and DOUBLE INDEMNITY.

This genre is also described as “mystery” or “suspense” or “crime fiction”.


“For readers, genres are sets of conventions and expectations: knowing whether we are reading a detective story, or a romance, a lyric poem or a tragedy, we are on the lookout for different things and make assumptions about what will be significant. Reading a detective story, we look for clues in a way we don’t when we are reading a tragedy”.

Jonathan Culler, Literary Theory, Oxford, 1997

[You've just read a (romantic) tragedy -- Romeo & Juliet.]

Detective Novel Conventions

A lone detective, an existentialist outsider, navigates an underworld to solve a crime, not necessarily for the police or the good of society.

The crime is gradually revealed in its full complexity.

The novel has “closure”: the murderer is found, the case is solved, everyone dies or marries and lives happily ever after.

Protagonist, Hero and Antihero

To what extent is a detective in detective fiction a "hero"?

Have you read anything about heroes in myth and fiction? Ex., Joseph Campbell, THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES

The Hero With A Thousand Faces outlines one such plot line. Campbell recounts in his book dozens and dozens of ancient hero myths from unrelated cultures around the world to come up with a common denominator for a plot line, the archetypal hero story.

Campbell showed that the story always began with an Everyman just living his hum-drum life. Suddenly and unexpectedly, either by chance or by choice, Everyman is either pulled out of his ordinary life or chooses to leave his ordinary life to launch into a great adventure, whose ending he cannot know at the beginning.

The adventure, according to Campbell, then goes through several specified stages. The hero will journey into a dark world where he meets various forces or entities which he has to deal with. Along the way he encounters a teacher who gives him the instruction in new skills he will need to learn to successfully achieve his goal. No later than this part of the journey the hero becomes consciously aware of what that very specific goal is.

Striving for his goal, the hero is challenged to his limit, reaching a peak culminating experience, what Campbell calls a "supreme ordeal." The result is that the hero "gains his reward" and is forever changed by the experience. He often gains some new powers and sets off with them. Eventually the hero re-emerges to his society with these new abilities bringing a boon to his society which somehow restores that society.


What is this hero “doing” (on a more metaphorical level than just his actions in the book)? CLUE: Is he finding a pattern? Is he finding the “truth”?

The Crime

“Find the murderer”: How many crimes? What are they?

Who is responsible for solving the crimes? What values are shown to be held by the police? By the detective?

How does the detective relate to the criminals? Does he know them and their world? To the police / the larger society?

"One of film noir's most pervasive motifs is the metaphorical linking of crime with urban alienation, loneliness and paranoia."


These themes are common to a type of philosophy called EXISTENTIALISM.

The Solution

What’s the denouement? - the revelation of what really took place? I.e., the classic part in the library of an Agatha Christie novel where the detective is surrounded by all of the suspects, and then reveals the true criminal.

What are the dangerous situations? What do they reveal?

Revising Conventions

“Noir” is “black” in French: this is a neo-noir film / detective novel with an African-American detective.

In what ways does this character seem a detached outsider from the society depicted in the text?
Other revisionary detective novels have female, gay, or Latino detectives.

In what ways does he/she criticize the values of this society?


Famous works of existentialism:

Jean Paul Sartre: NO EXIT

Albert Camus: THE STRANGER

Precursor: Dostoevsky, especially NOTES FROM THE UNDERGROUND


Simone de Bouvoir


Existentialism: A definition

A philosophy that emphasizes the uniqueness and isolation of the individual experience in a hostile or indifferent universe, regards human existence as unexplainable, and stresses freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences of one's acts.

from dictionary.com

A (mostly) twentieth-century approach that emphasizes the primacy of individual existence over any presumed natural essence for human beings. Although they differ on many details, existentialists generally suppose that the fact of my existence as a human being entails both my unqualified freedom to make of myself whatever I will and the awesome responsibility of employing that freedom appropriately, without being driven by anxiety toward escaping into the inauthenticity or self-deception of any conventional set of rules for behavior, even though the entire project may turn out to be absurd. Prominent existentialists include Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Jaspers, Beauvoir, Sartre, and Camus.

from an online philosophical dictionary

See how much more helpful the more specific dictionary is???

Starting out with Romeo & Juliet this time around teaching this course changed the course into a Shakepeare course! I was just trying to start with something everybody had already read...

What can texts do that films can’t?

Do novels have a structure, a narrative, which is not altered by medium (books, film)?

How is time different in novels and in film?

Some films are “real time”
24 (the tv show) is “real time”

Most films have “a clock”
“The clock” determines how time is perceived by the audience

Pacing also does this

What does film do that texts can't?

One thing that films do is control the "look" and "characterization" of the characters and the world of the work more tightly than do books.

When you read a book, you "picture" what things look like. You imagine what characters sound like, how their genstures are -- the author describes these to you, but reading requires care and imagination.

How are the characters different?

The roles actors play generally shift dramatically from the original text to the film, depending on the actors' skills and "look", the directors' "vision", etc.

How does the author describe the characters?

How were the characters established in the film?

Were roles altered? Added? How?

How is the atmosphere different?

Would you have read that in the book? I.e., how much of current events at the time of the books writing did you bring to it? Did you bring today’s current events to it instead? Why? Was that good? Bad?

How did your perceptions of each of the characters change?

Romeo & Juliet

Because Romeo & Juliet is such an important work
of literature, and such an interesting story,
it has been made into many movies.

It has been made into many different types of movies as well.

West Side Story is Romeo & Juliet!

Romeo + Juliet is a version of the play set in modern times.

haven't watched the 2nd half of pistons - lakers since Joseph & Carmen Thomas (well, I've completely forgotten her real surname) and Richard Flynn came over last night for some really wonderful conversation -- ended early (Carmen teaches middle school language arts) on a joke about a cruise ship ventriloquist having the dummy read poetry -- a spicier poetry reading -- "Aspodel that greeny flower" -- in a Charlie McCarthy voice

I haven't posted digital pics of Joseph's reading with CSUN students yet -- it was an exciting simultaneous reading -- four readers -- reading everyone's poems (except Joseph carefully rigged it so he's read fewer poems) (I expect the Nosferatu into binary poem was his, though!)

he'll be reading at Dawson's with Kenneth Goldsmith and Ian Monk

(wish I was reading with them when they're in LA!)

will be watching THAT LORD STANLEY'S CUP THING tonight -- go flames! oh, canada!
post on Gould's blog -- I think "aura" (especially for me, in west la!) is a nice improvement on "image" (this month, anyway):

What was the pith of what Pound found & celebrated in "tradition"? The same thing Montale found, that both found via Dante:

Provence, the love-song, the archaic-troubadour springtime mating-call, the epithalamion at the heart of Arcadia or Paradise, the Song of Songs...

the deep natural root of the grand epic-cosmic visions (Homer, Dante et al.). At the center of the Divina Commedia, Dante addresses his theme : What or Who is the real and proper goal of all our willing & desiring & loving (& the substance of our singing)?

[Actually, this forms the overall plot of my own grandiose effort in Forth of July, too, where the poem's path follows the transformations & coruscations of July, jewel-eye, Julius/Juliet, J-El, & so on. The "coming-forth of jewel-eye"]

my brief response

interesting -- I started out the middle part of my current book there (actually with the four female troubairitz) and never got the troubairitz in! -- what is it about this source material and scope, & length?