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Manly Arts: Masculinity and Nation in Early American Cinemaby David A. Gerstner
Synopses & Reviews
In this innovative analysis of the interconnections between nation and aesthetics in the United States during the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth, David A. Gerstner reveals the crucial role of early cinema in consolidating a masculine ideal under American capitalism. Gerstner describes how cinema came to be considered the art form of the New World and how its experimental qualities infused other artistic traditions (many associated with Europeandmdash;painting, literature, and even photography) with new life: brash, virile, American life. He argues that early filmmakers were as concerned with establishing cinemaandrsquo;s standing in relation to other art forms as they were with storytelling. Focusing on the formal dimensions of early-twentieth-century films, he describes how filmmakers drew on European and American theater, literature, and painting to forge a national aesthetic that equated democracy with masculinity.
Gerstner provides in-depth readings of several early American films, illuminating their connections to a wide range of artistic traditions and cultural developments, including dance, poetry, cubism, realism, romanticism, and urbanization. He shows how J. Stuart Blackton and Theodore Roosevelt developed The Battle Cry of Peace (1915) to disclose cinemaandrsquo;s nationalist possibilities during the era of the new twentieth-century urban frontier; how Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler positioned a national avant-garde through the fusion of andldquo;American Cubismandrdquo; and industrialization in their film, Manhatta (1921); and how Oscar Micheaux drew on slave narratives and other African American artistic traditions as he grappled with the ideological terms of African American and white American manhood in his movie Within Our Gates (1920). Turning to Vincente Minnelliandrsquo;s Cabin in the Sky (1943), Gerstner points to the emergence of an aesthetic of cultural excess that brought together white and African American cultural producersandmdash;many of them queerandmdash;and troubled the equation of national arts with masculinity.
Examines the anxieties of class and race and the conflicts between New and Old Worlds that attend the elevation of masculinity as a defining characteristic of early American cinema and visual culture.
About the Author
David A. Gerstner is Associate Professor of Cinema Studies at the City University of New York, College of Staten Island.
Table of Contents
1. Nineteenth-Century Formulations of Masculinity and Realism: The Body of Edwin Forrest 1
2. The Battle Cry of Peace and the Spectacle of Realism 51
3. African American Realism: Oscar Micheaux, Autobiography, and the Ambiguity of Black Male Desire 83
4. Manhatta: A National Self-Portrait 119
5. The Queer Frontier: Vincente Minnelliandrsquo;s Cabin in the Sky 165
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