Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

“The Preacher and the Apostle,” one of the early chapters in Marlon James’s novel John Crow’s Devil,  offers the first glimpse of the Jamaican village of Gibbeah and the man who comes to own it. Aloyisius Garvey, who renames the village Garveyville, dictates that every house be red, like his. Though people forget “with time and grime” (26) and call it black, the plantation-style house remains red and its dark curtains remain closed, “reveal[ing] no secrets” (26). Although the description of Gibbeah lacks the graphic detail of the novel’s often nightmarish scenes, it stands as one of the most haunting moments in the book for its foreshadowing of the horrors hidden in plain sight.

"High Plains Drifter" / horrorcultfilms.co.ok

“High Plains Drifter” / horrorcultfilms.co.ok

For readers versed in revisionist westerns, Gibbeah may evoke images of the red town of Lago in High Plains Drifter, where the buildings, like those of Gibbeah, are painted by decree. And like the town of Lago, the village of Gibbeah comes under the rule of a figure seeking vengeance. In the  film it’s the avenging angel who paints the town red. In James’s novel he returns–whether fallen angel or Antichrist–to a village stained red a generation earlier.

Late in the novel, after readers learn the true identity of the “stranger” who comes to town, it’s evident how the malignant neglect and abuse of Garvey’s rule gives rise to the totalitarian regime of his “nephew,” Apostle Lucas York: The villagers and their spiritual leader, Pastor Hector Bligh, fail to see, both through ignorance and turning a blind eye. As York says to Bligh after he takes the Pastor prisoner: “The only reason that man [Garvey] hired you is because you were as blind then as you are now” (212).

Even the Widow Greenfield, “the only one who eye no blind” (193), as Lucinda says, turns a blind eye to Garvey in defense:

He [Garvey] owned every red building including the church. Surely he could drive the Apostle out of the village and put Gibbeah back where it used to be. She thought for a minute about what that meant. Hypocrisy was as much a shield for her as anybody else. Pretense was protection. (183)

But the widow doesn’t know the extent of Garvey’s savage cruelty until she sees it documented in the sepia photographs that she discovers among the casualties: “In all her years of suspecting Mr. Garvey of sodomy and seeing his several nephews, she had never married the two. Her mind traveled to places she had not thought thinkable” (208).

Finally seeing the unthinkable as the widow sees it heightens the haunting quality of the first description of the village. Revealing the secrets once hidden in plain sight, Marlon James’s unflinching look at Gibbeah sends readers’ minds to places we’d rather not go, but it’s a crucial journey, one that leads not only to the boys and girls of Gibbeah—caught as they try to scramble over the fence—but also to the children of Aleppo, victims of an all-too-real conflict, one we must hope will end, as Gibbeah’s does, with survivors poised to tell the tale.

Work Cited

James, Marlon. John Crow’s Devil. Akashic. 2005.

 

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The film with a draft of this blog post

Ten years ago, PBS first aired the documentary Declining by Degrees, transporting viewers to the campuses of the University of Arizona, Western Kentucky, the Community College of Denver, and Amherst College to see through the eyes of students, faculty, and administrators there the challenges facing higher education in the twenty-first century. I first showed the film to my students in 2006 as a professor piloting one of the many First-Year Experience programs created in the aughts to remedy some of problems that the film addresses, namely the lack of community and continuity students need as they transition from high school to college. As students watch the film, they witness how that lack of vital support can lead some freshmen to leave college altogether, as Keith Caywood did, dropping out of the University of Arizona because, in his words: “When I started hearing about these [academic counseling] programs, I was already too deep in it, already failing my classes. So at that point I decided to leave college.”

Though I could stand at the lectern and compare my students’ first days at Lenoir-Rhyne with those of freshmen beginning college at a flagship state university, or a regional state university, or a community college, or an elite liberal arts college, Declining by Degrees sends them to classrooms at schools different from their own. That alone serves as one practical reason to continue showing it: I cannot put my students in other students’ shoes, but the film can.

Nevertheless, the naysayer in me utters, it’s ten years old now. It’s dated. I have chosen to quiet that voice in my head that tells me no, because the problems that the film addresses persist as college costs continue to rise faster than the rate of inflation (Lorin). And as more and more students find themselves burdened by debt, it’s critical for them to be able to place their college experience in a broader context and consider not only the financial costs, but the educational and social ones as well in a system that enables students to tread water, as one of the students in the film, Robin Bhalla, does.

Bhalla, in his own words, was a student who was “working with” or “manipulating” the system. Even though he partied four or five nights a week and his course work was only an afterthought, he still maintained a B average. The students who concern many faculty and administrators the most are ones like Bhalla who tread water, fulfilling course requirements and graduating without the intellectual development their diplomas should represent. Yet despite the film’s focus on treading water as a problem, many students who view the film don’t see it as one. In fact, they don’t even see it as treading water. Bhalla did move forward, some of my students have pointed out. In one of the class discussions following a viewing, a student referred to the “good job” that Bhalla obtained after graduation, though the film’s narrator, John Merrow, didn’t mention any specifics about Bhalla’s job at a pharmaceutical company. For some students, Bhalla’s job translated as good because they believe that people who obtain Bachelor’s degrees will eventually find good jobs and people who don’t, won’t. Thus, they conclude that Bhalla’s approach to his college years wasn’t a problem because he did graduate with a B average and did get a “good” job. Understandably, many students entering college don’t recognize such flaws in reasoning, but instead focus on the flaws in a system that requires them to pay ever-increasing sums of tuition for courses they perceive as irrelevant to their careers.

Yet even students with tunnel vision can see much of what’s wrong. Why should they devote time to courses that we tell them they need, if what they see is lecture halls where the professors don’t know their names, where it doesn’t matter if they don’t show up for class, where the professors don’t encourage questions from students?

One such professor, Paulette Kurzer, at the University of Arizona, claims she cannot answer students’ questions in a large lecture class, maintaining with students an unspoken contract that she calls “You-don’t-bother-me-and-I-don’t-bother-you.” Throughout the segment of the film devoted to her political science classes, she expresses her concern about students’ lack of engagement without recognizing how her own approach to teaching may encourage the very apathy that’s the source of her complaint. When the film’s narrator John Merrow suggests to Kurzer that students aren’t interested in classes like hers because the professors are boring, some students in my classes have laughed at Merrow’s blunt honesty, perhaps wishing they could similarly act on instinct in their classes without the risk of negative repercussions. In class discussions of Kurzer, my students have acknowledged her shortcomings and those of her students’ alike, but often haven’t seen the disconnect between Merrow’s assertion: “You’re boring,” and Kurzer’s response: “The students know how hard I work on my lectures.” Just as devoting hours to planning a lecture doesn’t guarantee its success, devoting hours to writing a paper or studying for an exam doesn’t guarantee a successful outcome. Kurzer’s staunch belief in her unacknowledged success in the classroom isn’t very different from many students’ self-perceptions. If she mistakenly believes that she has earned an A, why shouldn’t they believe that they have earned A’s, too?

Paulette Kurzer’s and Robin Bhalla’s stories, along with those of the other professors, students, and administrators on screen, reveal that the problems in higher education aren’t limited to one facet of the university; they’re systemic. But the message that some of my students at Lenoir-Rhyne glean may be quite different. They may see the treading-water approach as a big-school problem, one they have now seen on screen at the University of Arizona, and Western Kentucky, and the Community College of Denver but will not witness in their own classrooms. But Robin Bhallas and Paulette Kurzers are here as well; small classes alone don’t insure that students and professors are engaged and accountable.

On the first days of class we could have viewed any documentary and subjected it to the analysis that’s integral to our course. But Declining by Degrees, though now a decade old, claims us in a way that few other films can. Watching scenes that reveal problems that persist in higher education means watching ourselves, not mirror images but traces, and the challenges and risks that we as students and professors continue to face.

Works Cited

Declining by Degrees. Dir. Robert Frye. Narr. John Merrow. PBS Video, 2005. DVD.

Lorin, Janet. “College Tuition in the U.S. Again Rises Faster Than the Rate of Inflation.” Bloomberg Business.               Bloomberg, 13 Nov. 2014. Web. 12 Sept. 2015.

My last blog post, Friday, March 21, featured a sample paper draft that I composed as a model for my students. The draft included lines for a script selected from an academic essay on Sherman Alexie’s short story collection The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven and its film adaptation Smoke Signals.

As a model for their collaborative revisions, I revised my script to include lines from an interview with Alexie and lines spoken by his characters Victor Arnold and Thomas Builds-the Fire. And to tie the parts together, I added myself as a moderator. Similarly—but collaboratively, in groups of four and five—my students will fashion their individual drafts into one-act plays, placing their sources in conversation.

The setting for my sample revision, which follows, is the Coeur d’Alene Reservation in Idaho, where Thomas Builds-the-Fire, Victor Joseph, Gordon E. Slethaug, and I sit atop the KREZ weather van.

From “This is What it Means . . .” to Smoke Signals, or Sherman Alexie’s Road Trip from Page to Screen: A One-Act Source Play

Character Guide

Sherman Alexie: A poet and fiction writer who grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Northeastern Washington State. His books include the short story collection The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (1993), which he adapted for the screen. Smoke Signals, the film adaptation, received both the Audience Award and the Filmmakers Trophy at the Sundance Film Festival in 1998. More recently, his semi-autobiographical novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian (2007) received the National Book Award for Young Adult Literature.

Thomas Builds-the-Fire: One of the characters in The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven and Smoke Signals

Victor Joseph: The central character in The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven and Smoke Signals.

Jane Lucas: An Adjunct Assistant Professor at Lenoir-Rhyne University, who along with her students is studying Sherman Alexie’s short story “This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona” (from The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven) and Smoke Signals in conjunction with Alexie’s appearance as part of the University’s Visiting Writers Series.

Gordon E. Slethaug: An American-Canadian Professor of English at the University of Southern Denmark and author of Teaching Abroad: International Education and the Cross-cultural Classroom (2007), Beautiful Chaos: Chaos Theory and Metachaotics in Recent American Fiction (2000), and The Play of the Double in Postmodern American Fiction (1993). He also co-authored Understanding John Barth (1990) with Stan Fogel.

Lester Fallsapart (Leonard George) delivers the KREZ weather report in "Smoke Signals"/Movie still from ejumpcut.org

Lester Fallsapart (Leonard George) delivers the KREZ weather report in “Smoke Signals” / ejumpcut.org

At the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation in Idaho, Thomas Builds-the-Fire, Victor Joseph, Jane Lucas, and Gordon E. Slethaug sit atop the KREZ weather van, which has been stationed at the crossroads since it broke down there in 1972. Oddly, tribal meteorologist Lester Fallsapart is nowhere in sight. Jane Lucas picks up his red- and white-striped umbrella and looks it over a moment before she speaks.

Jane Lucas: First, I’d like to thank Randy Peone, the voice of Coeur d’Alene’s KREZ, for letting me meet with you atop the weather van. I was hoping Lester Fallsaparts would be here—isn’t he always here, like the weather?—and Sherman Alexie should be here, too. Alexie’s running late, it seems, but we should get started. As someone who’s studying “This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona” and Smoke Signals, I’m interested in the differences between the two. Gordon, you’ve written of the “different perception” (131) of the film.

Gordon E. Slethaug: Yes, it “presents a different perception from the short story collection [. . .] the short fiction gives a comprehensive representation of the entire Spokane reservation community and includes a typically Alexie critical and cynical view of the systemic problems of unemployment, poverty, hunger, inadequate housing, violence, drugs, alcoholism, and premature death in a culture removed from its traditional moorings” (131).

JL: Aren’t many of those problems that you mentioned apparent in the film as well?

GS: Yes, but “the film presents a warm-hearted, compassionate view of Victor and Thomas through the medium of the road narrative and engages the audience on the level of humor and sentiment even while it gently critiques white society and racist treatments of Native Americans” (131).

JL: It’s an engaging road-trip story, alright, but I’m not so sure about what you call the gentle critique. Some of the characters’ exchanges on screen are less gentle than their counterparts on the page. For example, Victor, there’s what you say on the bus to Cathy, the gymnast, who was an alternate for the 1980 US Olympic Team.

Victor Joseph: Yeah, I was just thinking about that. In the short story, our conversation with Cathy ends with that line of yours, Thomas. What is it you say?

Thomas Builds-the-Fire: (Opening his eyes) “Sounds like you all got a lot in common with Indians” (67).

VJ: Yeah, but in the movie, I keep talking. I say, “you said you were an alternate for the team, right?” And she answers, “yeah.” And I say, “well, if you were an alternate you’d only compete if someone on the team was hurt or something, right? And she answers, “yeah.” And I ask, “was anybody hurt?” And she says, “no.” And I say, “Then you weren’t really on the team, were you? I mean, it didn’t matter if there was a boycott or not. You were staying home anyways. You got nothing to complain about, so why don’t you just be quiet?”

JL: That isn’t what I’d call gentle.

(Sherman Alexie climbs the ladder attached to the back of the van.)

Sherman Alexie: Sorry I’m late—flight delay from Seattle. So it goes.

JL: Sherman, you said in an interview that you “didn’t have any problems with mutating [your] own book” (qtd. in West and West).

SA: (Nodding in agreement) “Right from the get-go, I said, ‘OK, Sherman you’re going to do composite characters, compress time, take bits and pieces from stories you need for this screenplay, and you’re not going to care.’ The narrative integrity of any one story was never the point, it was all about taking situations from the twenty-two short stories—it actually ended up being adapted from four short stories—taking the best you can find in this book to make it a screenplay” (qtd. in West and West).

JL: So the changes you made were your answer to the question, how can this story work best on the screen?

SA: Yes, “I’ve always separated them [books and movies] as two very distinct art forms” (qtd. in West and West).

JL: I wish we had more time, Sherman, but I know you’re heading to Albuquerque for a reading at the University of New Mexico, and I need to get back to Lenoir-Rhyne. I’ll leave a tape of our conversation for Randy Peone. Whether it airs on KREZ or not, I have a feeling that our words here today will become one of those stories told by you-know-who.

TB: Sometimes it’s a good day to die, and sometimes it’s a good day to write a one-act play.

Works Cited

Alexie, Sherman. “This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona.” The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. 1993. New York: HarperPerrenial, 1994. 59-75. Print.

Slethaug, Gordon E. “Hurricanes and Fires: Chaotics in Sherman Alexie’s Smoke Signals and The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.” Literature and Film Quarterly 31.2 (2003): 130-40. Academic Search Complete. Web. 17 Mar. 2014.

Smoke Signals. Dir. Chris Eyre. Perf. Adam Beach and Evan Adams. Miramax, 1998. DVD.

West, Dennis, and Joan M. West. “Sending Cinematic Smoke Signals: An Interview with Sherman Alexie.” Cineaste 23.4 (1998). Academic Search Complete. Web. 19 Mar. 2014.

 

Since writing academic papers requires placing sources in conversation, why not begin the writing process with an actual conversation on the page in the form of a play? That’s the idea behind the assignment developed by some of my former colleagues at VCU and one that I adapted for my own UNIV 111 classes.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (1993)

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (1993)

Rather than requiring each student to produce a play individually, I altered the project to focus on collaboration, assigning students the responsibility of producing individual preliminary drafts consisting of one character’s lines (quotations and/or paraphrases from one source), which they collaboratively place in conversation with their group members’ characters in a one-act play that they perform in class. The final product consists of quotations and paraphrases from three-to-five sources, a character guide with a biographical note on each source’s author, and a works cited list. I encourage (but don’t require) students to include a description of the setting and stage directions as well.

It’s an assignment that many of my former students at VCU viewed in hindsight as a particularly helpful exercise in synthesizing a variety of materials (articles, essays, books, etc.). Though it involves more compiling than composing—at least in the initial stages—it’s a critical step in the process of writing an academic essay.

Returning to this assignment with my ENG 131 students at Lenoir-Rhyne, I composed the following sample as a model for their preliminary drafts. I chose as my subject Sherman Alexie’s short story “This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona” and its film adaptation Smoke Signals—adapted for the screen by Alexie, himself—because my students are studying the story and the film in conjunction with Alexie’s appearance on campus March 27 as part of the Lenoir-Rhyne Visiting Writers Series.

Working Title: From “This is What it Means . . .” to Smoke Signals, or Sherman Alexie’s Road Trip from the Page to the Screen

Character Guide

Gordon E. Slethaug: An American-Canadian Professor of English at the University of Southern Denmark and author of  Teaching Abroad: International Education and the Cross-cultural Classroom (2007), Beautiful Chaos: Chaos Theory and Metachaotics in Recent American Fiction (2000), and The Play of the Double in Postmodern American Fiction (1993). He also co-authored Understanding John Barth (1990) with Stan Fogel.

Slethaug’s lines for the play follow.

Gordon E. Slethaug: “Although there has been some interest in depicting a more historically authentic view of Native Americans than that presented in the typical post-World War II Western, the reality of their lives and perspectives still seems sadly underrepresented and diminished in mainstream Hollywood film” (131).

GS: “Smoke Signals provides an important step in remedying this problem [of stereotypes]. It’s “based upon the first third of his collection of short stories, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven” (131).

Smoke Signals (1998)

Smoke Signals (1998)

GS: “The film, however, presents a different perception from the short story collection [. . .] the short fiction gives a comprehensive representation of the entire Spokane reservation community and includes a typically Alexie critical and cynical view of the systemic problems of unemployment, poverty, hunger, inadequate housing, violence, drugs, alcoholism, and premature death in a culture removed from its traditional moorings; the film presents a warm-hearted, compassionate view of Victor and Thomas through the medium of the road narrative and engages the audience on the level of humor and sentiment even while it gently critiques white society and racist treatments of Native Americans” (131).

 Works Cited

Slethaug, Gordon E. “Hurricanes and Fires: Chaotics in Sherman Alexie’s Smoke Signals and The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.” Literature and Film Quarterly 31.2 (2003): 130-40. Academic Search Complete. Web. 17 Mar. 2014.

To develop this individual draft into a one-act play, I will place Slethaug in conversation with Alexie, using these sources:

Alexie, Sherman. “This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona.” The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. 1993. New York: HarperPerrenial, 1994. 59-75. Print.

Smoke Signals. Dir. Chris Eyre. Perf. Adam Beach and Evan Adams. Miramax, 1998. DVD.

West, Dennis, and Joan M. West. “Sending Cinematic Smoke Signals: An Interview with Sherman Alexie.” Cineaste 23.4 (1998). Academic Search Complete. Web. 19 Mar. 2014.

Movies and the Meaning of Life (2005), which includes the essay “Flying Without a Map: Chasing Amy and the Quest for Satisfying Relationships”

I don’t want my students to feel as if they’re flying without a map.

So, as a model for them—many of whom are currently writing annotated bibliographies–I spent the better part of the morning composing the sample annotation that follows. The process awakened in me an interest in writing about Chasing Amy and Jerry L. Walls’ study of the film. Perhaps that’s a project for the summer.

Walls, Jerry L. “Flying Without a Map: Chasing Amy and the Quest for Satisfying Relationships.” Movies and the Meaning of Life. Ed. Kimberly A. Blessing and Paul J. Tudico. Chicago: Open Court, 2005. 137-149.

“Flying without a Map: Chasing Amy and the Quest for Satisfying Relationships” considers Kevin Smith’s film Chasing Amy (1997) as a reflection of our moral ambiguity. In the words of the essay’s author, Jerry L. Walls, Chasing Amy offers “a vivid picture of what happens to us emotionally, morally, and relationally when we try to revise morality in some fairly radical ways, while still holding onto selected parts of our traditional morality” (140).

In his analysis of the film’s principle characters, Walls cites Edward O. Wilson’s article “The Biological Basis of Morality,” highlighting the two options Wilson identifies as the ones that determine and divide our worldviews: (1) that moral and ethical principles “exist outside of the human mind,” or (2) “they are inventions of human minds” (141). Subsequently, Walls’ examination of Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck), who holds the former view, and Alyssa Jones (Joey Lauren Adams), who holds the latter view, illustrates how Alyssa challenges Holden to rethink his beliefs. While Holden tells Alyssa that he likes girls “Because that is the standard,” he cannot explain to her why he believes what he believes or why he should believe it.

Walls chronicles Holden’s and Alyssa’s moral evolution, noting the irony of Holden’s 180-degree shift, marked by the solution he proposes to Alyssa and Banky (Jason Lee), and concludes his essay by suggesting that Chasing Amy depicts “an even larger quest,” one for God (149).

Though I agree with Walls’ central thesis (that the film offers “a vivid picture of what happens to us emotionally, morally, and relationally when we try to revise morality. .  .”), I disagree with his conclusion, which rests on the questionable assumption that religion offers a map that other foundations for ethics and morals cannot. It comes as no surprise that Walls as a professor of the philosophy of religion turns to faith in the final pages of his essay. But by choosing that path, he overlooks how the film’s characters—all comic-book artists—turn to art as a way of making sense of their lives.

Groundhog Day and Nietzsche

Posted: February 2, 2013 in Film, Reading, Teaching
Tags:

Movies and the Meaning of Life (2005), which includes the essay “What Nietzsche Could Teach You: Eternal Return in Groundhog Day.”

For Monday my Focused Inquiry students will read “What Nietzsche Could Teach You,” which considers the film Groundhog Day (1993) as an illustration of eternal return. It’s an essay I’ve never taught before. I decided to teach it this semester as a way of responding to a suggestion some students offered last spring on their anonymous questionnaires—specifically that we discuss more of the big questions that we ponder throughout our lives.

So, for our first post-Groundhog Day class, we’ll view scenes from the film and consider the evolution of Phil Connors (Bill Murray), from unhappy weatherman living for the future to renascence man happily embracing the present.

According to James H. Spence, author of “What Nietzsche Could Teach You,” Phil Connors’ change signifies his rejection of the Christian view of linear time in which the future gives value to the present. Nietzsche’s alternative, his eternal return, posits that “[r]ather than moving on to a better (or worse, if we are bad) place after this life, we would relive our life over and over again, exactly as we had before” (274).

Today as I meditate on Spence’s essay and on the film, I’m aware of how rarely I live in the moment, and I’m reminded of a line that friend and teacher Doug Jones often says: We teach what we need to learn. We do, Doug. We really do.

Spence, James H. “What Nietzche Could Teach You: Eternal Return in Ground Hog Day.” Movies and the Meaning of Life. Ed. Kimberly A. Blessing and Paul J. Tudico. Chicago: Open Court, 2005. 274.

Frankly, My Dear (2009)

Molly Haskell grew up here in Richmond, and it’s here that she fell in love with movies. One of her most vivid childhood memories finds her standing before a magazine rack in the Broad Street station waiting for the train to Florida, and persuading her father to buy her a magazine devoted to the child star Margaret O’Brien.* The pleasure Molly Haskell took in reading that movie magazine is one she would later pass on to the readers of her own film reviews and books.” Those are some of the words that I spoke about Haskell Friday night when I introduced her as keynote speaker at the third annual VCU Southern Film Festival at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

In her keynote address, Haskell discussed her most recent book, Frankly My Dear: Gone With the Wind Revisited (2009), which expolores Gone With the Wind as the product of three strong personalities: author Margaret Mitchell, film producer David O. Selznick, and actress Vivien Leigh. Published on the seventieth anniversary of the film’s release, Haskell’s book looks back more than eighty years to Mitchell’s drafting of the novel in the 1920s, while also considering the book and film in multiple cultural contexts and reflecting on its enduring presence in our collective memory and imagination.

Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind (2011)

Haskell‘s speech led into the screening of the recent documentaryMargaret Mitchell: American Rebel (2011), which features Haskell as well as John Wiley, Jr., who co-authored–along with Ellen F. BrownMargaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind: A Bestseller’s Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood (2011). Both Wiley, of Midlothian, and Brown, of Richmond, were in the audience Friday night as well, and after the film they joined Haskell on stage for a panel discussion moderated by me.

At the outset of the panel, I noted that the publication of Brown and Wiley‘s book marked an important contribution to Mitchell scholarship as well as studies of book publishing and copyright. Though I was prepared to offer more talking points  about their work and Haskell‘s, I didn’t need to. Their own observations about Mitchell, her novel, and the film prompted a nearly hour-long conversation with the audience, cut short only by the announcement that the museum would close at 9 p.m.

When one man sitting near the front of the auditorium expressed his ambivalence about calling himself a fan, I was reminded of the “Seven Stages of Gone With the Wind” that Haskell outlines in Frankly My Dear:

“For those of us who fell under its spell, the range of emotions attached to the film fluctuate over time with the predictable volatility of a love affair and its aftermath, in my own case what we might clinically designate as the Seven Stages of Gone With the Wind: Love, Identification, Dependency, Resentment, Embarrassment, Indifference, and then something like Half-Love again, a more grown-up affection informed by a film-lover’s appreciation of the small miracle by which a mere ‘woman’s film’ with a heroine who never quite outgrows adolescence was tansfigured into something much larger, something profoundly American, a canvas that contains, if not Walt Whitman’s multitudes, at least multiple perspectives” (xiii).

Along with those words of Haskell‘s about the Seven Stages of Gone With the Wind, I would’ve liked to address how fans of the novel and the film have formed online communities, particularly on Facebook. That’s something that Ellen Brown mentioned back stage when the four of us–Brown, Wiley, Haskell, and I–were clipping on our wireless microphones.

In their introduction to Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind, Brown and Wiley write: “We do not claim to have rewritten Gone With the Wind, but we have refocused the lens” (3). Similarly, Haskell‘s Frankly My Dear refocuses the lens, and the insights of the three authors inspired Friday’s night’s audience to see the book and film anew.

*The childhood memory of Haskell‘s that I mentioned in my introduction is one that she recounts in From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women in the Movies (1974, Second Edition 1987).