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Rashida K. Braggs
,
William Murray
, and
Elijah Parks

Music lives and breathes through the spaces of much of James Baldwin’s oeuvre. This article introduces a course that features Baldwin’s musical literature and teaches students to compose music inspired by their newfound knowledge of Baldwin. The course, entitled “James Baldwin’s Song,” was taught in the department of Africana Studies at Williams College in fall 2021. It guided students to listen to Baldwin in a different way—through a musical lens and by relating Baldwin’s wisdom to their own lives. This article takes readers behind the scenes as it shares some of the curricular choices that guided the course and student insights gleaned from it. Though students heard many things in Baldwin’s musical oeuvre, two ideas sang out most clearly: that the blues was not just music but was also a way of living, and that joy differed from happiness. Accordingly, the second half of this article illustrates these key concepts as featured in original songs from the professor and student co-authors.

James Baldwin Review
Abstract only
Kim Akass

This brief concluding chapter reflects on the book’s findings. Chief among these is that there exists a deep cultural antipathy towards motherhood. For cable and streaming channels especially, the debasement of motherhood and women is regularly used as a way of breaking into a cluttered television universe. Nevertheless, there are occasional positive representations to be found, including Mare of Easttown, Lovecraft Country and Schitt’s Creek. The book’s ultimate conclusion is that we should not take representation for granted, as it is inevitably linked to economic and political positioning. If women are to eventually achieve equality with men, society needs to first address the inequalities associated with mothering.

in Mothers on American television
Kim Akass

This chapter argues that, through an application of Karen Horney’s post-Freudian feminist psychoanalytic theories on the dread of woman, much can be understood about Al Swearengen’s utter contempt for women as he sexualizes while silencing the maternal. The fictional Al Swearengen, like most of Deadwood, is based upon real historical events and characters. Most revealing is that the real Swearengen’s backstory is vastly different from the fictional one and, by looking at both of them, we can understand that the negative male attitudes towards motherhood we see in this short scene are not restricted to the nineteenth century.

in Mothers on American television
Abstract only
Interiority, claustrophobia and decadence in cosmopolitan London cinema of the 1960s and 1970s
Kevin M. Flanagan

This chapter identifies and surveys a counterintuitive strand of London films made by non-native filmmakers whose thematic and spatial focus is not on the breadth, freedom and possibility of the public city but rather on its private spaces. These ‘inner space’ films dwell on issues arising from the obsessive over-identification with interior spaces (apartments, flats, studios, workplaces), often to the extent that the central characters forsake the city streets in favour of private worlds of their own making. The chapter traces a cosmopolitan strand of inner space cinema that gels with issues explored by key British writers of the moment, but that very deliberately defines the city from the position of the outsider looking inward. American director Joseph Losey and Hungarian writer George Tabori’s film Secret Ceremony (1968, adapted from a novella by Argentine writer Marco Denevi) explores an obsessive, codependent relationship between mother and surrogate daughter that largely plays out inside Debenham House in Holland Park. The other film explored in depth is Tabori and Losey’s Leo the Last (1970), about the coming-to-political-consciousness of a deposed European aristocrat (Marcello Mastroianni) who is exiled to a West London home and who undergoes a personal transformation based on his gradual engagement with the outside world. Taken together, the films explored in this chapter advance an unconventional notion: the inner spaces of London, as represented and explored by those who look at the city from without, are key sites for dramatising and defining a full understanding of the metropolis. With their attention to issues typically outside the remit of urban experience (small-scale observation, confinement), they provide new windows on a frequently studied moment.

in Global London on screen
The Street, gentrification and Brexit
Charlotte Brunsdon

This concluding chapter focuses on Zed Nelson’s 2019 film The Street, filmed in the East London borough of Hackney. The film has a simple project: to track the transformations in inner-city Hoxton Street over the four years of filming. Through this undertaking, Nelson tells a more complicated story than the familiar narrative of the changing built environment of the cinematic city. His achievement is to record a micro-history of the changing street as long-established businesses like Anderson’s the bakers and Lawrence’s the carpet shop close, to be replaced with bars and galleries, in a broader context of the continuing spread of the City of London into adjacent previously working-class areas. Framing the changes in the street within the 2010 coalition government’s austerity project and the 2016 Brexit referendum, Nelson explores, using only the careful editing of his informants’ words, the way in which voting to leave Europe could be understood as a response to the loss of a familiar way of life, a familiar street, to the hipsters and incomers of gentrification. This chapter asserts that the detail of the film’s documentation with the careful contextualisation of so many of its characters is what makes the film vivid and compelling. Individual voices linger on, with their rich registers of emotion and attitude long after the images – and their homes and businesses – have faded. It would be a foolish mistake, however, to understand it as a film which is just about Hoxton Street.

in Global London on screen
A Review of Biographies about James Baldwin
William Henry Pruitt III

This review essay compares the research methodologies and narrative strategies of Baldwin biographies as well as their main claims. Analyzing these books in their chronological order, it seeks to chart a history of book-length knowledge production about the dynamics between Baldwin’s ideas, art, personal life, and public roles. The conclusion of this review essay heralds the future of biographical research in Baldwin Studies. It also proposes two new narratives about Baldwin: a chronicle of his responses to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s surveillance of him and a broader chronicle of his responses to Cold War conservatism.

James Baldwin Review
Kim Akass

This chapter argues that Game of Thrones’ attitude towards its female characters is symptomatic of the commodification of wombs in patriarchal culture. As if to emphasize women’s lack of agency, it is not just that their only significance is in the children they bear and their relationships to them, but that even the modicum of power given them in the source novels is nowhere to be seen in HBO’s adaptation. Through an application of Luce Irigaray’s theories, I argue that women are just a commodity within patriarchy, valuable only for their ability to reproduce.

in Mothers on American television
Lawrence Webb

This chapter provides a consideration of London's role in the global film industry and its status as a production centre for Hollywood tentpole blockbusters. It addresses a series of questions: beyond being an impressive piece of genre spectacle, what does this scene have to tell us about the intersecting industrial, political-economic and cultural factors that shape the production of high-budget franchise films in the UK? What are the qualities and affordances of such spatially dynamic set pieces, and how do they relate to questions of industry, genre, aesthetics and politics? And how might we place this brief but impactful action sequence into the histories of London on screen that have been mapped out by scholars such as Charlotte Brunsdon? Paying attention to production histories, marketing, critical reception and textual analysis, the chapter argues that London’s attraction for the Hollywood studios is a complex mix of financial incentives, institutional arrangements and cultural/aesthetic considerations. London offers filmmakers both difference and familiarity, and a layered, versatile mix of spaces that range from generic global city architecture to highly resonant landmarks. The creative topography of the city in the action sequence is mobilised to create what we might term a kind of ersatz cosmopolitanism: a relatively superficial embodiment of global diversity that engages with ‘foreign’ locations primarily as backdrops for action rather than as rich local cultures. As opposed to focusing on an individual visiting filmmaker, this chapter examines the systemic relationship between Hollywood and the UK and considers the cinematic experience of London that arises from the industrial and cultural dynamics of that relationship.

in Global London on screen
Visitors, cosmopolitans and migratory cinematic visions of a superdiverse city

Globalisation is often depicted as the enemy of ordinary citizens and the destroyer of cities. Global London on screen counters this narrative by exploring high points of cosmopolitan and multicultural worldliness on film, while not neglecting the more troubling migratory histories, exclusionist enclaves and criminal connections that often underpin them. Made by visiting filmmakers from all over the world, these films destabilise and confront conceptions of English or British London. They represent a wide variety of periods and genres, from the 1950s to the present day, and from noir and arthouse films to Hollywood blockbusters. Seldom has a group of London films been conceptualised to challenge universalist assumptions about London’s cultural status to outsiders. Steering clear of British localism, Global London on screen embraces the complexities of this nation and of the world’s most famous city.

Engineering the immigrant landscape of Emeric Pressburger’s Miracle in Soho
Jingan MacPherson Young

In this chapter Jingan MacPherson Young historicises the émigré director working in London’s Soho district. The chapter focuses on the film Miracle in Soho (Julian Amyes, 1957) written and co-produced by émigré filmmaker Emeric Pressburger. Miracle in Soho is a rare post-war British film which arranged the social, urban and cultural topography of London’s Soho through the depiction of the immigrant-as-cosmopolitan. Despite the film initially being a failure critically and at the box office, the topographical specificity that is found within Pressburger’s script suggests a fundamental and instinctive understanding of the urban arrangement of Soho’s commercial economies. The chapter asserts that Miracle in Soho provides an underlying criticism for the disorganisation of urban life but through the prism of an isolated locality and its engagement with the city. Does the film’s representation of Soho merely function as a backcloth for staging the Hungarian Jewish filmmaker’s imaginary conceptualisation of a community where ‘Church’ is erected directly opposite ‘Pub’? By placing Miracle in Soho in the historical and social context of post-war Soho, which during this period attempted to rebrand its disreputable pre-war reputation, this chapter uncovers the ways Pressburger's outsider gaze on the metropolis moulded the film’s depiction of the cosmopolitan and commercial locus.

in Global London on screen