III. literary theory


Issues on Race and Blackness

Black Is...Black Ain't

(VHS; 87 mins, 1995,
Producer/Director: Marlon Riggs, Co-Producer: Nicole Atkinson, Co-Director/Editor: Christiane Badgley)

This title comes with a free FACILITATOR GUIDE. http://www.newsreel.org/guides/blackgui.htm
" Sundance Film Festival, Filmmakers' Trophy
" International Documentary Association, Distinguished Achievement Award

The final film by filmmaker Marlon Riggs, Black Is...Black Ain't, jumps into the middle of explosive debates over Black identity. Black Is...Black Ain't is a film every African American should see, ponder and discuss.

White Americans have always stereotyped African Americans. But the rigid definitions of "Blackness" that African Americans impose on each other, Riggs claims, have also been devastating. Is there an essential Black identity? Is there a litmus test defining the real Black man and true Black woman?

Riggs uses his grandmother's gumbo as a metaphor for the rich diversity of Black identities. His camera traverses the country, bringing us face to face with Black folks young and old, rich and poor, rural and urban, gay and straight, grappling with the paradox of numerous, often contested definitions of Blackness. Riggs mixes performances by choreographer Bill T. Jones and poet Essex Hemphill with commentary by noted cultural critics Angela Davis, Bell Hooks, Cornel West, Michele Wallace, Barbara Smith and Maulana Karenga to create a flavorful stew of personal testimony, music, and history.

While Black Is...Black Ain't rejoices in Black diversity, many speakers bare their pain at having been silenced or excluded because they were perceived as "not Black enough" or conversely "too Black." Black Is...Black Ain't marshals a powerful critique of sexism, patriarchy, homophobia, colorism and cultural nationalism in the Black family, church and other Black institutions. Cornel West concludes, "We've got to conceive of new forms of community. We each have multiple identities and we're moving in and out of various communities at the same time. There is no one grand Black community."

Riggs' own urgent quest for self-definition and community, as a Black gay man dying from AIDS, ties the multiple perspectives together. Hooked up to an IV in his hospital bed, Riggs takes strength for his struggle against AIDS from the continual resilience of the African Americans in the face of overwhelming oppression. As his death nears, he conjures up the image of a Black community nurturing and celebrating the difference and creativity in each one of us.

Source: http://www.newsreel.org/nav/title.asp?tc=CN0011

Color Adjustment

(VHS; 16mm; 88 mins, 1991
Producer/Director: Marlon Riggs, Producer: Vivian Kleiman, Narrator: Ruby Dee)

" George Foster Peabody Award
" Outstanding Achievement Award, International Documentary Association.
" Erik Barnouw Award, Organization of American Historians

In Color Adjustment, Marlon Riggs - Emmy winning producer of Ethnic Notions - carries his landmark studies of prejudice into the Television Age.

Color Adjustment traces 40 years of race relations through the lens of prime time entertainment, scrutinizing television's racial myths and stereotypes. Narrated by Ruby Dee, the 88 minute documentary allows viewers to revisit some of television's most popular stars and shows, among them Amos and Andy, The Nat King Cole Show, I Spy, Julia, Good Times, Roots, Frank's Place and The Cosby Show. But this time around, Riggs asks us to look at these familiar favorites in a new way. The result is a stunning examination of the interplay between America's racial consciousness and network primetime programming.

The story, told with wit, passion, and verve, shows how African Americans were allowed into America's primetime family only insofar as their presence didn't challenge the mythology of the American Dream central to television's merchandising function. It demonstrates how the networks managed to absorb divisive racial conflict into the familiar non-threatening formats of prime-time television.

Clips from the shows that captivated, amused, and sometimes angered audiences are interwoven with the parallel story of the Civil Rights movement as brought into our living rooms on the evening news. Writers and producers - such as Hal Kanter (Julia), Norman Lear (All in the Family, Good Times, The Jeffersons), Steve Bochco (Hill Street Blues, LA Law), David Wolper (Roots), and others - take us behind the scenes of their creations. Esther Rolle, Diahann Carroll, Tim Reid and other black performers ruminate upon the meaning and impact of the roles they themselves played in shaping prime time race relations. Cultural critics Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Herman Gray, Alvin Poussaint, and Pat Turner point out that while these television programs entertain, they also reinforce and legitimate a particular notion of the "American Family."

As engaging as it is perceptive, Color Adjustment sheds light on the racial implications of America's favorite addiction - television watching. It will help viewers reexamine America's and their own attitudes towards race.

Source: http://www.newsreel.org/nav/title.asp?tc=CN0022

Dr. B. F. Skinner:Part 1

(color, 50min, 1966)

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Notable contributors to the Psychology of Personality series. Film No. 11--- Dr. B. F. Skinner, Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. Evaluation of Freudian Theory, view on motivation, emotion, perception, conditioning, reinforcement, punishment, teaching machines. Interviewed in Cambridge, Massachusetts, January, 1964 by Dr. Richard I. Evans, Professor of Psychology at the University of Houston.

(VHS only; 45 mins, 2001
Producer/ Director: James Banks, Elixer Productions)

One Drop Rule explores a recurring and divisive issue in African American communities - skin color. Candid, sometimes painful, but also often funny, it picks up where California Newsreel's earlier release A Question of Color leaves off. The film inter-cuts intimate interviews with darker skinned African Americans, lighter skinned African Americans and inter-racial children of Black and white parents. In the process it investigates color consciousness, a sensitive topic within the Black community, with great tact and a clear commitment to healing divisions.

The infamous "one drop rule" dictated that anyone would be considered Black if they had any African ancestry and was given legal saction in many states. One Drop Rule argues that, in practice, Blacks with more European features, lighter complexion and straighter hair, have been favored over those with a more African appearance. Interviewees testify that even today whites seem to feel more comfortable with and give preference to Blacks who more closely resemble themselves.

Darker skinned African Americans recall being given baths in Tide in a vain attempt to lighten their skins. They were told to straighten their hair and stay out of the sun lest they become darker. They came to envy the lighter skinned blacks favored by the mass media, their community and themselves. At the same time, lighter skinned African Americans recount the hostility of some of their Black brothers and sisters who assumed they felt superior to them because of their complexion. They remember having to prove their blackness by speaking "Ebonics" and denying their middle class origins.

Participants discuss the stresses of inter-racial dating in the face of pressure from family and friends. Many Black women resent black men who date white women as a reflection on all Black women. Conversely, black women who date white men face rejection from their boyfriend's family. The children of inter-racial marriages discuss being forced by others to chose between two cultural identities. They explain the added burden of not being readily accepted by either racial group.

One Drop Rule asks what makes someone Black? Is it "one drop of blood?" A way of speaking and dressing? One woman says that being Black is really a matter of attitude, a world view, In the end One Drop Rule becomes an eloquent plea that, in the words of Martin Luther King, we judge each other "not by the color of our skin but the content of our character."

Source: http://www.newsreel.org/nav/title.asp?tc=CN0127

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Stuart Hall: Representation and the Media & Race, the Floating Signifier

Lectures with visual aid.

Fragments of a Conversation on Language  (Nora Alleyn)

NFB: 1991

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Some English-Canadian and French-Canadian feminist poets get together to talk about the issues of using and revising patriarchal language.
Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask  (see intro from California Newsreel)

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Isaac Julien, the celebrated black British director of such provocative  films as Looking for Langston and Young Soul Rebels, integrates the facts of Fanon's brief but remarkably eventful life with his long and  tortuous inner journey. Julien elegantly weaves together interviews  with family members and friends, documentary footage, readings   from Fanon's work and dramatizations of crucial moments in Fanon's life. Cultural critics Stuart Hall and Franoise Verges position  Fanon's work in his own time and draw out its implications for our own.

The Greatest Thinkers Series-- Marx

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[from the International Center for Creative Thinker] A lively introduction to Marx's basic theory about capitalism and relations ofproduction. Using as illustrations drama, drawing and a dialogue with "Marx."
Greatest Thinkers Series, Freud

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Dr. Edward de Bono of Cambridge University hosted the series which explores the philosophy of major thinkers.

Literary Theory: what has it done for us?


(Terry Eagleton, Frank Kermode, Edward Said and Marina Warner)



literature - literary theory - impact of literary theory on writing - impact of foreign thinkers on criticism - theory & criticism - post modern discourses and the literary discourse Literary theory has swept the academic world like a tornado. In the opinion of some it has swept away the old and atrophied, in the opinion of others it has been mainly a destructive force. Terry Eagleton, Frank Kermode, Edward Said and Marina Warner discuss the impact of literary theory on the study of literature and agree to disagree upon its benefits. Is it undermining close reading of texts and the idea of literature or is it always present in all literary activity and simply undertheorised.
Philosophy Live-Jean Baudrillard Philosophical Forum


Jean Baudrillard is one of the world*s foremost philosophers of contemporary life.  His conceptions around simulation, hyper reality and spectacle have had a profound impact upon contemporary cultural practice.  In this video he is joined by Alphonso Lingis for a discussion of living in a post-moral age, life as video, reality, hyper reality and virtual reality.

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The celluloid closet (Rob epsten & Jeffrey friedman)

(color, 101 min) (Sony Pictures Classics, 1996)

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(ISBN: 0-7678-4900-0)

What That’s Entertainment did for movie musicals. THE CELLULOID CLOSET does for Hollywood homosexuality, as this exuberant, eye-opening movie serves up a dazzling hundred-year history of the role of gay men and lesbians on the silver screen. Lily Tomlin narrates as Oscar-winning moviemaker Rob Epstein (The Times of Harvey Milk and Common Threads: Stories From the Quilt) and Jeffery Friedman assemble fabulous footage from 120 films showing the changing face of cinema sexuality, from cruel stereotypes to covert love to the activist triumphs of the 1990s. Tom Hanks, Susan Sarandon, Whoopi Goldberg, Tony Curtis, Harvey Fierstein and Gore Vidal are just a few of the many actors, writers and commentators who provide funny and insightful anecdotes.
City of the Dead and The World Exhibitions

(76 mins, 1995)

(architecture, beliefs and monuments)

The concluding part of Julian Samuel's video documentary trilogy on the relationship between the West and Islamic and Third Worlds. This part looks at the rise of fundamentalism, the role of architecture in gender segregation in the historical and contemporary Islamic city, British and French laws of dispossession; the influence of the turn-of-the-century World Exhibitions in creating a picture of the Orient, and terrorism in contemporary Egypt. The work features interviews with Janet Abu-Lughod (Before European Hegemony, The World System AD 1250-1350); Akbar S. Ahmad, (Postmodernism and Islam); Hussien Ahmed Amin (Egyptian ex-ambassador to Algeria); Edwar Al-Kharrat, (The Girls of Alexandria); Max Rodenbeck (Egypt >From the Air); Timothy Mitchell (Colonising Egypt).


Julian Samuel was born in Lahore, Pakistan 1952. After living in the UK (1958-66), he moved to Canada, first to Toronto (1966-74), then to Peterborough, Ontario, where he completed a degree in English literature at Trent University, graduating in 1979. Apart from a few months in India and Pakistan (1981-82), he has since resided in Montreal, where he gained an MFA degree from Concordia University.

In Race, the Floating Signifier  (Reference and Classroom editions)


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Hall goes beyond the vast body of knowledge available on the effects of racism to help us understand the deeper questions about how race is represented. Hall shows that the meaning of racial signifiers (like skin color) are never fixed, but depend upon cultural context, and are discursive, or "floating signifiers."

Both programs are produced, directed and edited by the producer of Dreamworlds I & II, Sut Jhally of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, who also introduces both tapes.

Stuart Hall is a seminal figure in the development of media and cultural studies in Britain and his influence is ever more apparent across the globe. First as Director of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at the  University of Birmingham, and currently as Professor of Sociology at The Open University, he has helped to create environments for collaborative intellectual work that have forged new directions in cultural theory and cultural politics.

Into The European Mirror (Julian Samuel)

(56 minutes, English version, all formats, 1994)

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A documentary on political and imaginary frontiers...the expulsions and resistance in Spain 1492, and in Palestine 1993; questions of historical euro-nationalism are set in the Alhambra - last Moslem fortress in Europe... the fall of the Caliphate of Granada coincides with Columbus's crossing. Interviews with Homi Bhabha (Nation and Narration), Chris Giannou (A Doctor's Story of Life and Death in Beirut); Thierry Hentsch, (Imagining the Middle East); and Rana Kabbani (Letter to Christendom).

The Locations of Culture


Discuss the implication of Homi Bhabha*s book The Location of Culture, with Peter Osborne in the chair.  They consider notions of culture and cultural diversity, post-colonialism and where we are to locate a real culture that does not always have as its points of reference.
The Raft of the Medusa: Five voices on colonies, nations and histories (Post-Colonial Theories) (Julian Samuel)

( In English and French, 99 minutes, 1993)

A video documentary on the Orient in intellectual history. Contemporary and historical views are analyzed by Amin Maalouf, Thierry Hentsch, (Imagining the Middle East); Sara Suleri, (The Rhetoric of English India); Nourbese Philip, (Looking for Livingstone, Frontiers) and Ackbar Abbas, commentator on Walter Benjamin and Hong Kong cinema. Extended interviews address issues of emergent nationalism; (British India and its partition in 1947); the unique case of Hong Kong as it faces integration with mainland China; Occidental modernism and Islamic fundamentalism.

Representation and the Media








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An introductory lecture that unpacks one of the central ideas of cultural studies - that reality is not experienced directly, but always through the lens of culture, through the way that human beings represent and tell stories about the world in which they live. Using concrete examples, Hall shows how the media - and especially the visual media - have become key players in the process of modern story telling.



American feminist movement in late 60's. Feminists interviewed include Kate Millet, etc.

Talking Ideas Feminism, deconstruction



Feminism and deconstruction have been two defining forces into cultural and critical thinking for the last decade, but can they be reconciled?  Can the feminist project be deconstructed, or is the feminist project a deconstructive project?  American philosophher Diane Elam is joined by a panel to explore the philosophical nature of feminism.
Talking Ideas Paul Gilroy in conversation


Oayk Gilroy is one of the important post colonial theorists in this country, and one who is never afraid to present arguments that cut across more fashionable approaches.  In this discussion with Barnor Hesse.  Paul Gilroy presents a synthesis of his arguments against the simplifications of black nationalism and ethnocentrism and proposes an embracing of more complex alternatives in which routes count for as much as roots and displacement is more common than stasis.
Writers in conversation: Edward Said with Salman Rushdie


Palestinian writing -Displacement, landlessness and exile - Palestinian women -Zionism with reference to the Palestinian - Western attitudes Edward Said, through much of his work, is concerned with the identity of a dispersed and dispossessed people attempting to come to terms with their exile: the Palestinians. Professor of English & Comparative Literature at Columbia University, Edward Said's publications include Covering Islam, Joseph Conrad & the Fiction of Autobiography, Literature & Society, Orientalism, The Question of Palestine & the World, The Text & the Critic. "Yes, we have been victimised and our identity threatened, but no, we have neither been passive or innocent...nevertheless, to most people Palestinians have been visible as fighters, terrorists and lawless pariahs.

Writers in conversation: John Berger with Lisa Appignanesi


Choosing styles for different forms. Themes of space and time. Emigration and displacement. Interpretations of the role of history. Memory and history. Abscence, distance and rootlessness.
Writers in conversation--Salman Rushdie with Charlotte Cornwell




Writing about Nicaragua- the tradition of cultural histories written. US involvement in Nicaragua-the role of newspapers from political- the writer's role in politics in Latin America.

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Video Catalogue
English Department
, Fu Jen University