A Feminist Reader in Early Cinema

A Feminist Reader in Early Cinema

a Camera Obscura book

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Book Pages: 592 Illustrations: 62 illus. Published: November 2002

Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Media Studies > Film

A Feminist Reader in Early Cinema marks a new era of feminist film scholarship. The twenty essays collected here demonstrate how feminist historiographies at once alter and enrich ongoing debates over visuality and identification, authorship, stardom, and nationalist ideologies in cinema and media studies. Drawing extensively on archival research, the collection yields startling accounts of women's multiple roles as early producers, directors, writers, stars, and viewers. It also engages urgent questions about cinema's capacity for presenting a stable visual field, often at the expense of racially, sexually, or class-marked bodies.

While fostering new ways of thinking about film history, A Feminist Reader in Early Cinema illuminates the many questions that the concept of "early cinema" itself raises about the relation of gender to modernism, representation, and technologies of the body. The contributors bring a number of disciplinary frameworks to bear, including not only film studies but also postcolonial studies, dance scholarship, literary analysis, philosophies of the body, and theories regarding modernism and postmodernism.

Reflecting the stimulating diversity of early cinematic styles, technologies, and narrative forms, essays address a range of topics—from the dangerous sexuality of the urban flâneuse to the childlike femininity exemplified by Mary Pickford, from the Shanghai film industry to Italian diva films—looking along the way at birth-control sensation films, French crime serials, "war actualities," and the stylistic influence of art deco. Recurring throughout the volume is the protean figure of the New Woman, alternately garbed as childish tomboy, athletic star, enigmatic vamp, languid diva, working girl, kinetic flapper, and primitive exotic.

Contributors. Constance Balides, Jennifer M. Bean, Kristine Butler, Mary Ann Doane, Lucy Fischer, Jane Gaines, Amelie Hastie, Sumiko Higashi, Lori Landay, Anne Morey, Diane Negra, Catherine Russell, Siobhan B. Somerville, Shelley Stamp, Gaylyn Studlar, Angela Dalle Vacche, Radha Vatsal, Kristen Whissel, Patricia White, Zhang Zhen


"[A] richly detailed and kaleidoscopic vision of gender as filtered through the lens of the early film industry. . . ." — Linda S. Coleman , Journal of American Culture

"[T]his book covers rich ground. The authors have done the historical research required to bring to life the facts and the stories. . . . [F]ilm historians and feminist media scholars will want to own this book. . . . [T]he book provides links between the escape of women from the cultural constraints of the nineteenth century and the evolution of film in the twentieth century. In doing so, it provides a perspective from which ideological inquiries may be framed." — Mark Goodman , Journal of Film and Video

"Drwing extensively on archival research, the collections yields startling accounts of women’s multiple roles as early producers, directors, writers, stars, and viewers. It also engages urgent questions about cinema’s capacity for presenting a stable visual field, often at the expense of racially, sexually, or classmarked bodies."

— Mev Miller , Feminist Academic Press Column

"Every reader will find their own favourites in this smorgasbord. . . . If your own interest in early cinema is already established, you will find something stimulating and provocative here, in the wide range of topics and approaches on offer. If you are just entering this territory, this collection provides a rich selection to whet your appetite for further explorations." — Ina Bertrand, Screening the Past

”Despite the enormous amount of work that has been done in the last two decades on women and early cinema, this anthology is the first of its kind. It is outstanding.” — Judith Mayne, author of Framed: Lesbians, Feminists, and Media Culture

”This collection is a persuasive reminder that the hottest current topics in film theory—cultural intersections, questions of authorship, fantasy and technology, representation and the body—demand and are illuminated by feminist inquiry.” — Linda Mizejewski, author of Ziegfeld Girl: Image and Icon in Culture and Cinema


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Price: $34.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Jennifer M. Bean is Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature and Cinema Studies at the University of Washington.

Diane Negra is Lecturer in Film and Television Studies at the University of East Anglia.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Introduction: Toward a Feminist Historiography of Early Cinema / Jennifer M. Bean 1

I. Reflecting Film Authorship

Circuits of Memory and History: The Memoirs of Alice Guy-Blache / Amelie Hastie 29

Nazimova's Veils: Salome at the Intersection of Film Histories / Patricia White 60

Of Cabbages and Authors / Jane M. Gaines 88

Reevaluating Footnotes: Women Directors of the Silent Era / Radha Vatsal 119

II. Ways of Looking

The Gender of Empire: American Modernity, Masculinity, and Edison's War Actualities / Kristen Whissel 141

Making Ends Meet: "Welfare Films" and the Politics of Consumption during the Progressive Era / Constance Balides 166

Irma Vep, Vamp in the City: Mapping the Criminal Feminine in Early French Serials / Kristine J. Butler 195

The Flapper Film: Comedy, Dance, and Jazz Age Kinaesthetics / Lori Landay 221

III. Cultural Inversions

The Queer Career of Jim Crow: Racial and Sexual Transformation in A Florida Enchantment / Siobhan B. Somerville 251

Taking Precautions, or Regulating Early Birth-Control Films / Shelley Stamp 270

The New Woman and Consumer Culture: Cecil B. DeMille's Sex Comedies / Sumiko Higashi 298

"So Real as to Seem Like Life Itself": The Photoplay Fiction of Adela Rogers St. Johns / Anne Morey 333

IV. Performing Bodies

Oh, "Doll Divine": Mary Pickford, Masquerade, and the Pedophilic Gaze / Gaylyn Studlar 349

Immigrant Stardom in Imperial America: Pola Negri and the Problem of Typology / Diane Negra 374

Technologies of early Stardom and the Extraordinary Body / Jennifer M. Bean 404

Femininity in Flight: Androgyny and Gynandry in Early Silent Italian Cinema / Angela Dalle Vacche 444

Greta Garbo and Silent Cinema: The Actress as Art Deco Icon / Lucy Fischer 476

V. The Problem with Periodization

An Amorous History of the Silver Screen: The Actress as Vernacular Embodiment in Early Chinese Film Culture / Zhang Zhen 501

Technology's Body: Cinematic Vision in Modernity / Mary Ann Doane 530

Parallax Historiography: The Flaneuse as Cyberfeminist / Catherine Russell 552

Contributors 571

Index 575
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2999-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3025-7
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