Category: Research


Lecture from 2012 on the theme of the artist-hero in Tim Burton’s films. It runs around 50 minutes. An audio-only version is available here.

Abstract:
Characters with particular artistic talents and sensitivities dominate the films of Tim Burton: the introverted Edward Scissorhands (Johnny Depp) of the 1990 film of the same name stuns his detractors with a series of unlikely masterworks; Jack Skellington of The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) is the celebritized and eagerly sought scare-artist of Halloween Town; in Corpse Bride (2005) Victor Van Dort (Depp) funnels his frustrations into musical composition. These portrayals are curiously complemented in Burton’s oeuvre by characters who appear as affected, inferior or even deadly, artists. The Joker (Jack Nicholson) of Batman (1989), for instance, pronounces himself “the first fully functioning homicidal artist,” before presenting his mutilated girlfriend as “a living work of art.” This illustrated presentation explores the foregrounding of creative art in Burton’s films, focusing especially on the figure of the artist-hero. It considers this recurring figure in relation to an auteurism that insists we recognize the “Tim Burton-ness” of each film (notice its particular artistry), traditional conceptualizations of art production, and the role of artistic practice in foregrounding individuality.

I’ve uploaded an audio version of my lecture on dogs in horror cinema, originally given at the Stranger With My Face International Film Festival, 2016. It’s nearly an hour long, with audio clips. It discusses Suspiria, The Exorcist, The Thing, and Cujo, among some others.

I’m excited that I will be giving, as part of the Stranger With My Face International Film Festival’s Mary Shelley Symposium, the following presentation:

rott2.gifBAD DOG!
The Rogue Hounds of Horror

Domestic dogs regularly earn the affectionate adjective “faithful” in tribute to the numerous ways in which they complement and enrich human lives: as companions, guardians, workmates, friends. However, horror cinema provides multiple instances of dogs turned treacherous, canines who fiercely reject our attribution of fidelity and who abuse the special status we afford them in our culture. With attention to several films, including SUSPIRIA (1977), THE THING (1982), and CUJO (1983), this illustrated presentation takes a stern yet understanding look at these “bad dogs,” considering the terror and allure of imagining the rebellion of our furry friends.

The talk will be held on Saturday April 16, 11 am. Cost is $6 or $4 (Conc.), or free with a Festival Pass (see below).

This exploratory but accessible talk will be of interest to lovers of cinema, genre, horror, and—of course—dogs.

I really hope as many people as possible attend this wild and wonderful festival, which Director, Founder and Programmer, Briony Kidd, along with others, are working tremendously hard on. A tantalizing array of films (both shorts and features) await your attention and enjoyment, as well as in-depth talks and presentations. For more info visit: http://www.strangerwithmyface.com

I will be donating my speaker’s fee to The Dogs’ Home of Tasmania, so you can come and enjoy a talk about angry dogs while your support indirectly helps very vulnerable ones.

Thinking in the DarkI strive to make Jacques Lacan accessible in this new anthology from Rutgers UP on film theory. Each chapter considers a different theorist/philosopher whose ideas have been influential in cinema studies, and via analysis of two films (one classic, one contemporary). My chapter discusses Laura (1944) and Black Swan (2010). I’m honored to be included in a book with the likes of Tom Gunning and Dudley Andrew (and of course its wonderful editors Murray Pomerance and R. Barton Palmer). Anyone who teaches film or is otherwise in need of a vibrant introduction to film theory: check it out.

And remember: “What does it matter how many lovers you have if none of them gives you the universe?”

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Thank you to the wonderful Dave from Critical Dave for this review of my book, Bad Seeds and Holy Terrors. Dave is one of my favorite online critics, an insightful, erudite and no-bullshit writer, and a great guy too, so I’m thrilled by and grateful for his comments.

Critical Dave

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I opened my review of The Bad Seedwith the following words: “So if further evidence was needed that all children everywhere are evil, enter Rhoda Penmark and The Bad Seed”. I’d intended the quip as a pithy little one, relying more on my curmudgeonly ways than any reflection of actual children, but it was still an easy one to make – do we in fact find children a bit creepy and evil?

It’s a subject that’s considered, addressed, refuted, supported, reinterpreted and discussed all throughout Dominic Lennard’s Bad Seeds and Holy Terrors: The Child Villains of Horror Film. Charting the depictions of delinquent all the way through to monstrous children in film from (roughly) the post-war era to the modern day, Lennard’s work doesn’t so much say “yes” or “no” to the question, but considers all ways of considering it.

He puts forward multiple readings and…

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George Cukor: Hollywood Master (2015)I’m excited to announce publication of George Cukor: Hollywood Master, edited by the wonderful Murray Pomerance and R. Barton Palmer, in which my work is included. This anthology includes critical discussion of every feature Cukor directed, including Gaslight, Adam’s Rib, Born Yesterday, and of course numerous others.

A number of George Cukor’s films focus on the critique and correction of social personae, featuring protagonists who must fuss over the most “appropriate” or culturally desired presentation of self. Addressing this theme, my chapter is titled Libel, scandal and bad big names: on not being ‘yourself’ in Camille (1936), Romeo and Juliet (1936), It Should Happen to You (1954), and Les Girls (1957).”

 

 

An MGM-style all-star cast of critics proCamille sentimental.gifvide innumerable fresh insights into Cukor’s rich and surprisingly varied career, his working methods and his signature subjects. The self-effacing Cukor believed in not calling attention to his craft, but he would have appreciated the sophistication and nuance with which these scholars illuminate his achievements.

–Professor Matthew Bernstein, Emory College of Arts and Sciences, Emory University

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Bad Seeds and Holy Terrors - coverMy book, Bad Seeds and Holy Terrors: The Child Villains of Horror Film (SUNY Press, 2014), has just been reprinted in affordable paperback and ebook editions and is available now from the publisher, Amazon, and anywhere else you can find it. The paperback is currently available for $24.95, and the Kindle ebook is less than $15.

Professor Gwedolyn Audrey Foster (University of Nebraska-Lincoln), writing for CHOICE reviews, recently described Bad Seeds as ‘a bracing book’ that ‘more than does [its subject] justice.’  Please follow the SUNY Press link below to read more about it. Needless to say, I recommend Bad Seeds to anyone interested in horror film and this curiously popular subgenre; the book addresses questions like why these films emerged and why they’re frightening. However, it also uses horror (a conspicuously ‘adult-only’ domain) to explore a host of powerful roles and meanings adults have projected onto children in western culture — and how they malfunction.

Anyone who does order: thank you so much for your support!

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Ageing, Popular Culture and Contemporary FeminismImelda Whelehan and Joel Gwynne’s wonderful collection, Ageing, Popular Culture and Contemporary Feminism: Harleys and Hormones, is now out from Palgrave Macmillan, featuring my chapter “Too Old for This Shit?: On Ageing Tough Guys.”

Blurb from the publisher:

The past decade has seen an increase in popular cultural representations of ageing, in response to the realities of an ageing Western population and an acknowledgement of the economic significance of consumption by seniors. Yet, while contemporary film often depicts late middle to old age as a time of renewal and acceptance, most popular depictions of ageing focus on images of loss, decline, and the fear of physically ageing ‘naturally’. Ageing in popular culture is a battlefield, with increasing numbers of euphemisms used to disguise the fact of age.

Feminist discourse has kept forever young, even though some of its most eminent proponents are ageing and dying. In the field of popular cultural studies the emphasis on the discourse of postfeminism and the ‘girling’ of culture has foregrounded the concerns of young women at the expense of a focus on older women, or what ‘gender’ means for middle-aged to older people generally. This collection demonstrates how popular culture constructs ageing as a perilous experience for not only women but also for men, while also underscoring the possibilities (and problems) of positive representations of ageing in the wider culture and in feminist criticism.

Bruce Willis in Die Hard 4.0 (2006)My chapter addresses the resurgence of several iconic cinema tough guys in the 2000s, including Bruce Willis in new installments of the Die Hard franchise (2007 and 2013), Sylvester Stallone in Rocky Balboa (2006) and Rambo (2008), and a veritable brigade of ageing beefcake in The Expendables (2010). I argue that the re-popularization of these stars was indicative of a cultural shift back to conservative gender roles in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Generally in these films, physical violence is used to shore up masculinities perceived to be threatened by the ageing process. However, I argue that even though these tough-guy heroes may have come back (‘with a vengeance’), the films in which they appear also acknowledge that the ageing male will not always be able to ‘legitimize’ his patriarchal status with stunning demonstrations of violence. Consequently, several of these films seek to navigate for their male heroes ways of maintaining prestige beyond its persistent physical enforcement.

Ageing, Popular Culture and Contemporary Feminism at Palgrave; at Amazon.

SUNY Press, 2014 http://www.sunypress.edu/p-5921-bad-seeds-and-holy-terrors.aspx

SUNY Press, 2014

I’m delighted to announce the publication of my book, Bad Seeds and Holy Terrors: The Child Villains of Horror Film, by State University of New York Press. The book is currently available in electronic form, and the hardcover edition will be released on November 1.

This book wrangles with the numerous child villains who have haunted horror cinema over many decades, including Damien Thorn (The Omen), Regan MacNeil (The Exorcist), Samara (The Ring), and Rhoda Penmark (The Bad Seed), and the psychic terrors of Village of the Damned (pictured on the cover), among others. It interrogates in detail and with a variety of theoretical tools a cultural obsession with imagining children as objects of terror. In doing so, it highlights popular horror cinema as a vital topic of analysis, exposing it as a site of deep and volatile ambivalence toward children.

Available in print and digital form from the publisher, SUNY Press; Amazon; and others.

“This is impeccably well researched and presented. It holds its own at the top of film studies scholarship. Sprightly in its survey across key areas of cultural anxiety and able to draw on a range of lucid examples, Lennard produces sophisticated and complex extended analyses where necessary. A pleasure to read.”  — Linda Ruth Williams, University of Southampton, United Kingdom

“Deftly organized, elegantly written, and graced throughout with numerous stills and frame blowups, Bad Seeds and Holy Terrors has something to offer both the lay reader and the scholar.” — CHOICE

Reading the Bromance

Reading the BromanceI’m very thrilled to have my work included in this terrific new book on the ‘bromance’ phenomenon, Reading the Bromance: Homosocial Relationships in Film and Television, edited by the wonderful Michael DeAngelis (DePaul University), out in June from Wayne State University Press in both print and ebook formats.

Reading the Bromance examines a wide range of films and TV shows replete with bromantic affection. As well discussion and analysis of bromance staples like The 40-year-old Virgin (2005), Knocked Up (2007), Superbad (2007), and I Love You, Man (2009), the book also focuses analytical attention on texts like Grumpy Old Men (1993), TV’s House, and Scream (1996); it addresses cross-cultural bromances as well, buddies in Hindi cinema, and much more. Readers will find discussion of men engaged in bromance’s obsession with mimicking homosexuality while insisting that these displays are indeed only mimicry.

My chapter is titled “‘This ain’t about your money, bro. Your boy gave you up’: Bromance and Breakup in HBO’s The Wire.” As its title indicates, this piece focuses on the acclaimed HBO crime drama The Wire. This show probably isn’t the first thing that jumps to mind when one thinks of bromance, yet The Wire abounds with close male partnerships. Centrally and critically celebrated is the relationship between drug kingpin Avon Barksdale (Wood Harris) and his right-hand man, Russell “Stringer” Bell (Idris Elba), which is phrased in terms of family but—I argue—consolidated in a series of romantic and virtually sexual gestures.

Authors include Hilary Radner, David Greven, Nick Davis, Meheli Sen, Jenna Weinman, Ken Feil, Peter Forster, Ron Becker, Murray Pomerance, and editor Michael DeAngelis.

Praise for Reading the Bromance:

Everything you always wanted to know about the bromance, but were afraid to ask! This new volume explores contemporary masculinity, homosocial desire, and homosexual/homophobic knowing as it plays out across film and TV texts such as I Love You, Man, Superbad, The Wire, Jackass, and Humpday. In thoughtful and provocative ways, DeAngelis and his authors cover the history, forms, and multiple meanings of this curious phenomenon. Essential reading for anyone interested in contemporary models of gender and sexuality.

– Harry M. Benshoff, Professor of Radio, TV, and Film at University of North Texas and author of Dark Shadows (Wayne State University Press, 2011)

This lively and perceptive collection of essays posits the ‘bromance’ film as an ambivalent response to gay liberation and the women’s movement that allows for expanded representations of male intimacy even when operating within heteronormativity. Reading the Bromance is a valuable volume for those who want to understand the role of gender and sexuality in contemporary popular cinema.

– Mary Desjardins, author of Recycled Stars: Female Film Stardom in the Age of Television and Video and co-editor of Dietrich Icon

Reading the Bromance‘s remarkably sophisticated essays analyze the twisted generic complexity of a long history of representing male-male relations. Studying the formula’s homosocial and heteronormative behaviors, these authors demonstrate how these texts permit fluid cultural and social adventures involving emotions, maturity, gender, taste, and physicality. A terrific collection.

– Janet Staiger, William P. Hobby Centennial Professor Emeritus in Communication and Professor Emeritus of Women’s and Gender Studies.

Reading the Bromance is available in June from Wayne State University Press.