Women at Work in Twenty-First-Century European Cinema


Barbara Mennel

U. of Illinois Press, 2019

From hairdressers and caregivers to reproductive workers and power-suited executives, images of women’s labor have powered a fascinating new movement within twenty-first century European cinema. Social realist dramas capture precarious working conditions. Comedies exaggerate the habits of the global managerial class. Stories from countries battered by the global financial crisis emphasize the patriarchal family, debt, and unemployment. Barbara Mennel delves into the ways these films about female labor capture the tension between feminist advances and their appropriation by capitalism in a time of ongoing transformation. Looking at independent and genre films from a cross-section of European nations, Mennel sees a focus on economics and work adapted to the continent’s varied kinds of capitalism and influenced by concepts in second-wave feminism. More than ever, narratives of work put female characters front and center–and female directors behind the camera. Yet her analysis shows that each film remains a complex mix of progressive and retrogressive dynamics as it addresses the changing nature of work in Europe.

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Victorian Skin: Surface, Self, History

Pamela K. Gilbert

Cornell U. Press, 2019

In Victorian Skin, Gilbert uses literary, philosophical, medical, and scientific discourses about skin to trace the development of a broader discussion of what it meant to be human in the nineteenth century. Where is subjectivity located? How do we communicate with and understand each other’s feelings? How does our surface, which contains us and presents us to others, function and what does it signify?

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Comedy Acting for Theater: The Art and Craft of Performing in Comedies

Sid Homan and Brian Rhinehart

Bloomsbury/Methuen, 2018

Analysing why we laugh and what we laugh at, and describing how performers can elicit this response from their audience, this book enables actors to create memorable – and hilarious – performances. Rooted in performance and performance criticism, Sidney Homan and Brian Rhinehart provide a detailed explanation of how comedy works, along with advice on how to communicate comedy from the point of view of both the performer and the audience. Combining theory and performance, the authors analyse a variety of plays, both modern and classic. Playwrights featured include Harold Pinter, Tom Stoppard, Christopher Durang, and Michael Frayn. Acting in Shakespeare’s comedies is also covered in depth.

Rift of Light

William Logan

Penguin, 2017

William Logan’s classical verve conjures up the past within the present and the foreshadowings of the present within the past. In their sculptural turns, their pleasure in the glimmerings of the sublime while rummaging around in the particular, the poems in Rift of Light, Logan’s eleventh collection, are a master class of powerful feeling embedded in language. Ranging from Martin Luther to an abandoned crow, from a midwife toad to a small-town janitor, from actress Louise Brooks to Dürer’s stag beetle, Logan shows an encyclopedic attention to the passing world.

Distant Mandate

Ange Mlinko

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017

In Distant Mandate, Ange Mlinko moves between the tormented southern landscape, with its alternately arid and flooded scrublands, and the imaginative landscapes of Western art. Guided by her spiritual forbears―Orpheus, Mallarmé, Pound, Yeats, and others―Mlinko deftly places herself within the tradition of the poet in protest against the obduracy of the real. Mlinko takes the title from a piece by Laszló Krasznahorkai on the unknowable origins of the Alhambra, the monument “for the sight of which there is only a distant mandate . . . [one] can see, in any event, the moment of creation of the world, of course all the while understanding nothing of it.” This distant mandate, also the “bitter ideal” of Mallarmé, is the foundation upon which all works of art are composed―the torment of eros and the intimation of war.

Myth is central to these poems; some are based on the story Cupid and Psyche, others serve as odes to Aphrodite or as explorations of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. In Distant Mandate, Mlinko has given us a shimmering and vibrant collection, one that shows us not only how literature imagines itself through life but also how life reimagines itself through literature.

The Aesthetics and Politics of Global Hunger

Anastasia Ulanowicz and Manisha Basu, eds.

Palgrave Macmillan, 2018

This collection investigates modern imperialist practices and their management of hunger through its punctuated distribution amongst asymmetrically related marginal populations. Drawing on relevant material from Egypt, Ireland, India, Ukraine, and other regions of the globe, The Aesthetics and Politics of Global Hunger is a rigorously comparative study made up of ten essays by well-established scholars from universities around the world. Since modernity, we have been inhabitants of a globe increasingly connected through discourses of equal access for all humans to the resources of the planet, but the volume emphasizes alongside this reality the flagrant politicization of those same resources. From this emphasis, the essays in the volume place into relief the idea that ideological and aesthetic discourses of hunger could inform ethical thinking and practices about who or what constitutes the figure of the modern historical human.

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