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The cinema of Oliver Stone

Art, authorship and activism

Ian Scott and Henry Thompson

This book charts and analyses the work of Oliver Stone – arguably one of the foremost political filmmakers in Hollywood during the last thirty years. Drawing on previously unseen production files from Oliver Stone’s personal archives and hours of interviews both with Stone and a range of present and former associates within the industry, the book employs a thematic structure to explore Stone’s life and work in terms of war, politics, money, love and corporations. This allows the authors both to provide a synthesis of earlier and later film work as well as locate that work within Stone’s developing critique of government. The book explores the development of aesthetic changes in Stone’s filmmaking and locates those changes within ongoing academic debates about the relationship between film and history as well as wider debates about Hollywood and the film industry. All of this is explored with detailed reference to the films themselves and related to a set of wider concerns that Stone has sought to grapple with -the American Century, exceptionalism and the American Dream, global empire, government surveillance and corporate accountability. The book concludes with a perspective on Stone’s ‘brand’ as not just an auteur and commercially viable independent filmmaker but as an activist arguing for a very distinct kind of American exceptionalism that seeks a positive role for the US globally whilst eschewing military adventurism.

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Jenny Edkins

Despite the imperative for change in a world of persistent inequality, racism, oppression and violence, difficulties arise once we try to bring about a transformation. As scholars, students and activists, we may want to change the world, but we are not separate, looking in, but rather part of the world ourselves. The book demonstrates that we are not in control: with all our academic rigour, we cannot know with certainty why the world is the way it is, or what impact our actions will have. It asks what we are to do, if this is the case, and engages with our desire to seek change. Chapters scrutinise the role of intellectuals, experts and activists in famine aid, the Iraq war, humanitarianism and intervention, traumatic memory, enforced disappearance, and the Grenfell Tower fire, and examine the fantasy of security, contemporary notions of time, space and materiality, and ideas of the human and sentience. Plays and films by Michael Frayn, Chris Marker and Patricio Guzmán are considered, and autobiographical narrative accounts probe the author’s life and background. The book argues that although we might need to traverse the fantasy of certainty and security, we do not need to give up on hope.

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Jane Brooks

The creation of spaces conducive to healing is a critical aspect of the provision of good nursing care. The nursing sisters of the British Army, having trained in the British hospital system would have been well versed in the need to create and maintain and environment in which healing could take place. The zones into which they were posted during the Second World War and the spaces they were given in which to care for their patients, were however, rarely either favourable to health or to the ‘serenity and security’ needed for recovery. Extreme weather conditions, limited water supplies, equipment and electricity combined to hinder all aspects of patient care. The often hostile places in which nurses worked demanded that they develop clinical skills and the ability to improvise and innovate in order create healing spaces for their soldier-patients. However, as the chapter argues it was the highly feminised home-maker work that created these spaces, which the nurses themselves credited to be an essential aspect to the healing process in which they were the critical performers.

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‘Believe me or not’

Actresses, female performers, autobiography and the scripting of professional practice

Maggie B. Gale

There are an extraordinary number of autobiographies written by British female theatre professionals working during the period. This generation of actresses and female performers were concerned, in part, with locating themselves in a public culture of self-affirmation and reflection. Their autobiographic writing evidences an awareness of the growing interest in their activities as public figures and practitioners, in a labour market where women were now becoming firmly professionalised. The chapter explores how their ‘autobiographic confessional histories’ can be read as a body of work, as cultural interventions that make an explicit contribution to our understandings of the development of professional theatre practice more generally, during the era.

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The battlefield against popery

Emigration and sectarian rivalry

Sarah Roddy

Partly by mining the wealth of controversial written material produced by Protestant missionaries and their Catholic counterparts, this chapter attempts to ascertain how clergy believed their churches might be impacted by the substantial loss of population which emigration represented. Historians of the earlier migrations have noted the difficulty of untangling the religious and economic motivations for emigrating, notwithstanding that religious persecution or sectarian violence were routinely considered by Protestant clergy as the root cause. The galvanising idea that 'Ireland is thus the battlefield against Popery for Britain and America and all the world' seems to have taken a firm hold in Protestant missionary circles. For all the allegations of 'souperism' that abounded during the Famine, Protestant missionaries were ultimately incapable of financially supporting and retaining in Ireland even those converts they had acquired before the Famine.

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Aerial star

Lillian Leitzel’s celebrity, agency and her performed femininity

Kate Holmes

Lillian Leitzel was one of the highest-profile circus celebrities of the 1920s in an industry where women occupied a prominent position, performing in virtually every discipline either as soloists or in mixed troupes. Leitzel became famous for performing an extraordinary feat of aerial endurance in an act that was witnessed by audiences in their millions throughout America and Europe. Not only did she perform as part of a circus, she also used her celebrity status to secure engagements in vaudeville/variety venues. Leitzel’s celebrity was unusual, and this chapter explores the ways in which her performance of femininity reflected concerns regarding the role of women in the interwar period as key to her pre-eminent celebrity status.

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John Cunningham

This chapter explores the medical environment of 1640s Ireland, particularly during the 1641 Rebellion. It uses the 1641 Depositions to explore how people understood reported sickness and disease. It also traces the experiences of a broad range of medics during a period of warfare and significant social and political upheaval. In doing so, it enables an important new perspective on medicine in Early Modern Ireland.

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Promoting medical change in Restoration Ireland

The chemical revolution and the patronage of James Butler, Duke of Ormond (1610– 88)


Peter Elmer

This chapter seeks to situate James Butler, duke of Ormond, at the centre of an important patronage network for medicine in Restoration Britain and Ireland. It explores the Irish dimension of the emergence of the Society of Chemical Physicians and situates it against the background provided by the momentous Cromwellian period in Ireland. Particular attention is paid to Pierre Belon, a Huguenot physician patronised by Ormond who was involved in efforts to promote a spa at Chapelizod near Dublin.

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Alice Marples

This chapter argues for the significant role played by Irish-based medics as collectors and communicators of natural history in the period 1680–1750. It demonstrates that the relative isolation of practitioners in Ireland meant that their findings could sometimes be seen by those elsewhere as carrying greater weight and possessing greater novelty. Particular use is made of the correspondence of Sir Hans Sloane, president of the Royal Society, to demonstrate how processes of communication and collection could operate across large distances, especially between rural Ireland and London.

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Bridget Byrne and Carla De Tona

This chapter charts the rise of notions of consumer choice in the field of state education and its relationship to the changing structures of school provision. It considers how a shift towards the ‘choosing parent’ can maintain inequalities of race and class. It also addresses gaps in Bourdieusian approaches to education, particularly focusing on how racialised processes have frequently been sidelined in this literature. In considering the literature on school choice, this chapter also points to gaps in the literature, which has historically largely focused on white middle-class parents and children. Finally, it explores the importance of understanding schools as located in particular places – enabling an exploration of spatial processes of school choice. It will examine how ideas such as territorialisation and stigmatisation of space can interact with processes of school choice.