Mlk, Jr.: Ambiguous and Contested Icon

The Mammy/Aunt Jemima as an American Icon: Toni Morrison Responds

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The Mammy/Aunt Jemima as an American Icon: Toni Morrison Responds

This paper discusses characters from two of Toni Morrison's novels, Aunt Jimmy (The Bluest Eye) and Ondine (Tar Baby), as one black woman writer's response to the Mammy/Aunt Jemima American corporate icon that not only advertises the great American breakfast, but also conveys a stereotype of blackness that has pervaded American popular culture since the 1870's. Mammy/Aunt Jemima appears in advertising, novels, films, and television sitcoms and it is at once an ambivalent object of desire and derision. Mammy/Aunt Jemima represents the American nostalgia for the pre-Civil War era of slavery; especially for the nurturing black domestic who lives for nothing else but to serve the white middle and upper class family. This paper argues that Toni Morrison's two characters complicate this ambivalence by unveiling the black woman's perceptivity and ingenuity as a potentially disruptive agent.

Deszcz, Justyna

“The Bidding for Dorothy’s Ozian Magical Shoes: Salman Rushdie’s ‘At the Auction of the Ruby Slippers’ as a Reflection on the Contemporary America”

It seems that Rushdie has recently become a post-deAnglicized American author, torn between repulsion and enchantment in relation to the myth of the New World as utopia. The perplexing nature of the U. S. is amply illustrated in his two latest novels, The Ground Beneath Her Feet (1999) and Fury (2001), whose characters traverse all sorts of boundaries, imaginative, linguistic, cultural, or political, only to find themselves in America, the overcommitted new imperial power, with which they share a profound anguish about the post-frontier times. Their stories reflect Rushdie’s own uneasy border-crossings and the attempts to navigate across multiple America religious, political, economic, or cultural territories. In my paper I discuss Rushdie’s relatively unpopular short story “At the Auction of the Ruby Slippers” (1992), a result of the writer’s continuing preoccupation with both Frank Baum’s tale and the MGM film The Wizard of Oz (1939), as a sober, or even acerbic, gloss on various lineaments of America’s domination when it has gone too far, that is, when the ideals of economic integration, just distribution of resources, cultural inclusiveness, and exuberant social and political exchange have all become a nightmarish delirium, actually serving the needs of neo-imperialism. More specifically, I focus on Rushdie’s interpellation of the myth of Ozian magical slippers, which have been idolized as one of the most revered iconic embodiments of emancipation, individualism, and unrestrained mobility. Accounting for their misadventures in the modern Oz, which has actually become another Disneyworld, Rushdie offers a wry commentary on the extremes of America’s neo-liberal ethics and marke t-oriented capitalism. Still, the very fact that Oz has so strongly etched itself on the writer’s memory testifies to Rushdie’s subscribing to the philosophy of Oz as an oppositional space that provides an alternative to any instances of an oppressive and alienating order. Rushdie does realize the possibility of utopian impulse and oppositional practice and sees in Oz an exceptional capacity for harbouring not so much consumerist drives but unfulfilled dreams that could come true. Thus, I also argue that his own interpretation of the commodified American iconography of Oz exposes in a fascinating was the possibility of a resistant appropriation of the mass-produced art.

Diekmann, Stefanie

NYC Heroes - The American Fireman after September 11

In the aftermath of September 11, many figures have become the focus of interest and sympathy but the NYC firemen form a category of their own. No other group has experienced a comparable rise in public esteem, none has been subject to a similar glorification, and even if janitors, police officers, doctors and office people have enjoyed their share of attention it did not take long until the NYC firefighter was established as the no. 1 object of respect and admiration. (As proves GWB’s choice of a firemen’s congregation on Ground Zero for one of his first public appearances after the attack on the Twin Towers.) The deeds of NYC’s professional rescue workers have been commemorated in songs (e.g. Bruce Springsteen’s new album), film (e.g. the Naudet brother’s documentary that was meant to show a young fireworker’s initiation to a tough job and transformed itself into everyone’s favourite film on miraculous survival), comics (the Marvel series that featured a whole new set of ‘real’ American heroes), and so on, all dealing with issues of agency and responsibility on the one hand, and mourning and redemption on the other. The presentation will focus on excerpts from the Naudet film and the Marvel series and explore the interesting figure of a real hero who is emphatically ONE OF US and at the same time considered as one who turns out to be somewhat LARGER THAN LIFE.

Brando Named Desire. Bodies as Icons in Tennessee Williams Film Adaptations

The paper investigates the process whereby bodies become icons in filmic representation. Bodies in Tennessee Williams film adaptations become first glamorized and eroticized images due to the specular focus directed at them. A notable example for such a mechanism is Blanche DuBois’s (Vivien Leigh) look that renders Stanley Kowalski’s (Marlon Brando) body as an object of desire in the adaptation of A Streetcar Named Desire. The spectator’s desire and the identification processes triggered by the cinema elevate the image of the body onto the status of the icon, which thus goes beyond the particular mimetic stratum it appears in. Central bodies in Film adaptations of Tennessee Williams’ dramas became icons in the twentieth century – notably, Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and The Fugitive Kind (1960); Paul Newman in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958); Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Suddenly Last Summer (1959); and Richard Burton in The Night of the Iguana (1964). The presentation aims to trace the process of the transformation of these bodies through their images to their iconic status, and to analyze this status in a framework that points beyond the world of the cinema.

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