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Article

South Asian American visual culture is a diverse field of visual art, created by artists who are first-, second- and third-generation immigrants from Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh, among other diasporic locations (e.g., Kenya). South Asian American artists work in a range of media forms, including photography, sculpture, installation, video, painting, and drawing. Collectively, these artworks are frequently exhibited in museums and galleries as depictions of contemporary South Asian immigrant life. However, a close reading of individual works produces a more dynamic picture. Instead of viewing South Asian American visual culture solely in terms of artists’ own immigrant biographies, scholarship and museum practices have begun to focus on how its aesthetic and political contributions have been central to the representation of racialized, gendered, and sexualized immigrant bodies in the United States since the turn of the millennium. Drawing across archival collections, aesthetic histories, and digital media forms, artists create works that link the colonial documentation of “native” bodies on the subcontinent with the surveillance and documentation of immigrant bodies by the US state. Alongside artists, academics and activists also work to produce curatorial interventions through exhibitions that generate feminist and queer critiques of the relation between nation-state and diaspora. Emphasizing the transnational ties of capital and labor that bind together the subcontinent with the United States, South Asian American visual culture creates new frameworks for the relationship between race, visuality, and representation.

Article

Deidre Lynch

The notion that theoretical inquiry and the love of literature are at odds is a tenacious one, likewise the related account of the theorist as heartless killjoy. This article, however, challenges the notion that theory is necessarily down on love. It surveys the several strains of theory that since the turn of the 21st century have made it possible for practitioners of theory to acknowledge more readily that concept-driven intellectual work inevitably has an affective undertow. But it also looks further back, to the late 18th-century origins of the literary studies discipline, so as to understand why the love question cannot be confined to the sphere of amateurism but instead hovers persistently around what literature professors do in their classrooms: what does that persistence say about the place of ethical and affective norms in the discipline’s intellectual enterprise? And just why and how does aesthetic receptivity get defined as “love” in the first place?

Article

Since the 1960s, film theory has undergone rapid development as an academic discipline—to such an extent that students new to the subject are quickly overwhelmed by the extensive and complex research published under its rubric. “Film Theory in the United States and Europe” presents a broad overview of guides to and anthologies of film theory, followed by a longer section that presents an historical account of film theory’s development—from classical film theory of the 1930s–1950s (focused around film as an art), the modern (or contemporary) film theory of the 1960s–1970s (premised on semiotics, Marxism, feminism, and psychoanalysis), to current developments, including the New Lacanians and cognitive film theory. The second section ends with a very brief overview of film and/as philosophy. The article covers the key figures and fundamental concepts that have contributed to film theory as an autonomous discipline within the university. These concepts include ontology of film, realism/the reality effect, formalism, adaptation, signification, voyeurism, patriarchy, ideology, mainstream cinema, the avant-garde, suture, the cinematic apparatus, auteur-structuralism, the imaginary, the symbolic, the real, film and emotion, and embodied cognition.

Article

Asian American queer performance indexes racialized, gendered, and sexualized forms and modes of performance created by, for, and about Asians in an American context. Since the 1980s, queer and ethnic studies have conceptualized performance not only as object of study (e.g., staged performance, visual art, film) but also as a method of critique and hermeneutic for troubling knowledges of Asian American encounter and subject formation. Performance in this sense can be understood as Asian American and queer in its engagement with and critical rescripting of histories and ideologies of empire, nationalism, war, globalization, migration, missionizing, white supremacy, and cis-normative heteropatriarchy that constitutes themes of Asian American studies. The interdisciplinary field of performance studies offers quotidian performance, racial performativity, and gender performativity as discursive tools with which to consider social conventions and scripts that render Asian American queer formation legible and dynamic toward future rewritings.

Article

Brenda Murphy

It is generally agreed that the post–World War II period produced the most significant American drama and theater. This included Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie (1945), A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955); Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman (1949) and The Crucible (1953); and Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh (1946) and Long Day’s Journey into Night (written 1941, produced 1956). It was also the time when American theatrical production, characterized by a hybrid blend of realistic and modernist techniques known as “the American style,” was most influential. This period of extraordinary accomplishment would not have occurred without the particular theatrical developments that preceded it. American theater had gotten off to a slow start during the 18th and early 19th centuries, partly because of an anti-theatrical prejudice in the puritan roots of the Northeast, where most US cities were located, and the copyright situation, which made it much more profitable for theatrical managers to pirate English plays than to produce new American ones. During the mid-19th century, some native melodramas achieved popular success, but none entered the permanent repertoire except as curiosities. Toward the end of the 19th century, the realism of Henrik Ibsen and George Bernard Shaw began to have an impact, and by the 1920s, realism was the dominant dramatic and theatrical idiom of the American stage. At the same time, the impact of modernist techniques such as expressionism was being felt, and Eugene O’Neill and Susan Glaspell were writing avant-garde modernist plays such as O’Neill’s The Emperor Jones (1920) and The Hairy Ape (1922) and Glaspell’s The Verge (1921), which paved the way for O’Neill’s great experiments of the 1920s and 1930s, such as Strange Interlude (1928) and Mourning Becomes Electra (1931). For playwrights like Williams and Miller, it was a natural development to create a drama that united both of these strains, anchoring their plays in a realistic idiom but suffusing them with expressionist techniques that made it possible to dramatize a character’s consciousness on stage in juxtaposition with the external reality they must negotiate. The final decades of the 20th century may be characterized not so much by individual playwrights as by dramatic and theatrical developments. Escaping the intense commercial pressure of Broadway, the off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway theaters fostered the development of feminist and other experimental drama as well as the careers of playwrights such as Sam Shepard, Adrienne Kennedy, Maria Irene Fornés, and Lynn Nottage. Edward Albee, August Wilson, Ntozake Shange, and David Mamet came from alternative or regional theaters to achieve popular success on Broadway as well as critical acclaim. At the turn of the 21st century, American drama and theater reflected the heightened awareness of gender identity and ethnicity in the 1990s and the broadly eclectic aesthetics that would be evident in the next decades, a drama that is epitomized in Tony Kushner’s Angels in America (1992), which combines realistic characters, sociopolitical commentary, humor, and sentiment with fantasy, myth, and epic.

Article

Genders  

Pelagia Goulimari

Feminist, queer, and transgender theory has developed an array of fruitful concepts for the study of gender. It offers critiques of patriarchy, the gender binary, compulsory heterosexuality, heteronormativity, and homonormativity, inter alia. New Materialist feminists have analyzed gender variance, continuous variation, and continuous transition through concepts such as rhizome, assemblage, making kin, and sym-poiesis (making-with). Feminists of color and postcolonial feminists have theorized intersectionality—that gender always-already intersects with race, class, sexual orientation, and so on—and gender roles outside the white middle-class nuclear family, such as othermothering and fictive kin. Materialist feminists have studied gender as social class, while psychoanalytic gender theorists have explored gender as self-identification and in terms of the relation of gender identification and desire. Queer theory has explored vexed gender identifications and disidentification as well as heterotopias, counterpublic spaces, and queer kinship beyond the private/public divide. Transgender theory has critiqued transmisogyny and theorized transgender and trans* identities. Indigenous feminist and queer theory has theorized Two-Spirit identities and queer indigeneity in the context of a decolonial vision. Theorists of masculinities have analyzed masculinities as historically specific, plural, and intersectional. Gender studies, in all this diversity, has influenced most fields of study—for example, disability studies in its theorization of complex embodiment, its development of crip theory, and so on. Gender studies, in turn, has greatly benefitted from the study of literature. Literature has been indispensable in the genealogy of dominant gender norms such as the 19th-century norms of the angelic/demonic woman and self-made man. In return, gender theory has offered fresh insights into literary genre, for example the Bildungsroman. Since the development of gender theory, it has taken part in an ongoing dialogue and cross-fertilization with literature, evidenced in self-reflexive and critically informed literary texts as well as in gender theory that includes autobiographical and literary (e.g., narrative, figurative, fictional, poetic) elements.