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"Mouths on Fire with Songs"

Negotiating Multi-Ethnic Identities on the Contemporary North American Stage

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Caroline De Wagter

This book, the first cross-cultural study of post-1970s anglophone Canadian and American multi-ethnic drama, invites assessment of the thematic and aesthetic contributions of this theater in today’s globalized culture. A growing number of playwrights of African, South and East Asian, and First Nations heritage have engaged with manifold socio-political and aesthetic issues in experimental works combining formal features of more classical European dramatic traditions with such elements of ethnic culture as ancestral music and dance, to interrogate the very concepts of theatricality and canonicity. Their “mouths on fire” (August Wilson), these playwrights contest stereotyped notions of authenticity. In¬spired by songs of anger, passion, experience, survival, and regeneration, the plays analyzed bespeak a burning desire to break the silence, to heal and empower. Foregrounding questions of hybridity, diaspora, cultural memory, and nation, this comparative study includes discussion of some twenty-five case studies of plays by such authors as M.J. Kang, August Wilson, Suzan–Lori Parks, Djanet Sears, Chay Yew, Padma Viswanathan, Rana Bose, Diane Glancy, and Drew Hayden Taylor. Through its cross-cultural and cross-national prism, “Mouths on Fire with Songs” shows that multi-ethnic drama is one of the most diverse and dynamic sites of cultural production in North America today.

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Kerstin Knopf

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Kerstin Knopf

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Kerstin Knopf

Decolonizing the Lens of Power

Indigenous Films in North America

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Kerstin Knopf

This is the first book that comprehensively examines Indigenous filmmaking in North America, as it analyzes in detail a variety of representative films by Canadian and US-American Indigenous filmmakers: two films that contextualize the oral tradition, three short films, and four dramatic films. The book explores how members of colonized groups use the medium of film as a means for cultural and political expression and thus enter the dominant colonial film discourse and create an answering discourse. The theoretical framework is developed as an interdisciplinary approach, combining postcolonialism, Indigenous studies, and film studies. As Indigenous people are gradually taking control over the imagemaking process in the area of film and video, they cease being studied and described objects and become subjects who create self-controlled images of Indigenous cultures. The book explores the translatability of Indigenous oral tradition into film, touching upon the changes the cultural knowledge is subject to in this process, including statements of Indigenous filmmakers on this issue. It also asks whether or not there is a definite Indigenous film practice and whether filmmakers tend to dissociate their work from dominant classical filmmaking, adapt to it, or create new film forms and styles through converging classical film conventions and their conscious violation. This approach presupposes that Indigenous filmmakers are constantly in some state of reaction to Western ethnographic filmmaking and to classical narrative filmmaking and its epitome, the Hollywood narrative cinema. The films analyzed are The Road Allowance People by Maria Campbell, Itam Hakim, Hopiit by Victor Masayesva, Talker by Lloyd Martell, Tenacity and Smoke Signals by Chris Eyre, Overweight With Crooked Teeth and Honey Moccasin by Shelley Niro, Big Bear by Gil Cardinal, and Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner by Zacharias Kunuk.

Opera and the Novel

The Case of Henry James

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Michael Halliwell

Opera and the Novel: The Case of Henry James offers the first full-length study of the theory and practice of the adaptation of fiction into opera: the transference of a work from one medium to another – metaphrasis – is its point of departure. Starting with a survey of the current thinking regarding the nexus between words and music with specific reference to operatic adaptation of existing literary works, it traces the four-hundred-year history of opera, demonstrating that the novel has become increasingly attractive to librettists and composers as an operatic source. As the resources of modern music theatre have increased in sophistication, so too have the possibilities for an expanded engagement with complex fictional works. The intricate relationship between fictional and musical narrative is examined: the proposition that the orchestra assumes much of the function of the narrator in fiction is explored. The second section is a detailed examination of eight operatic works based on Henry James’s fiction. It is opera’s unique capability to present the intense emotional and psychological situations central to James’s fiction as well as the ability to engage with his synthesis of melodrama and psychological ambiguity which makes James’s work peculiarly amenable to operatic adaptation. Composers who have used James as a source include Douglas Moore, Benjamin Britten, Thomas Pasatieri, Donald Hollier, Thea Musgrave, Philip Hagemann and Dominick Argento. The operas discussed represent a contemporary critical and often self-conscious engagement with the art form itself as well as illustrating current adaptive strategies, and suggest ways in which new operatic paths may be forged. This volume is of relevance to students and scholars of English literature and opera as well as readers who take an interest in intermedial research and the question of adaptation in general.