Ronald E. Surtz
Brian Aivars Catlos
Thomas Devaney, Enemies in the Plaza. Urban Spectacle and the End of Spanish Frontier Culture, 1460–1492 . University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia 2015, x + 246 pp., 5 figures, 2 maps. ISBN 9780812247138. US $ 59.95; £ 39. Studies on Christian-Muslim relations, particularly those
Mary Shelley’s frightening fiend has a long tradition of visually thrilling movie audiences. Yet there is more to this hulking hodge-podge of human parts than meets the eye, lest we forget how linguistically savvy he is in the novel. Indeed he is quite eloquent, utilising rhetoric in an attempt to forge relationships, which Peter Brooks asserts would fulfil the creature’s need for recognition and affection. Unfortunately words are not enough for others to overlook his hideous face. Thus language’s inefficacy becomes a form of monstrosity itself – an interesting concept that leads to various results when adapted to the visual medium of film. Early cinematic productions like James Whale’s 1931 Frankenstein depict a mute spectre in a childlike state of development while comedic adaptations, such as Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein, humorously transform the character from proto-linguistic brute to articulate socialite. Despite the variance in these two portrayals, and in Kenneth Branagh’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as well, each film illustrates how language informs visual monstrosity through acts of naming, speech (or lack thereof), and language acquisition. Ultimately these movies reinforce the stifling spectrality of Shelley’s literary creation, perpetuating a monstrous icon that continues to skulk through the dark recesses of the modern viewer’s consciousness.
My chapter addresses questions regarding the narrative of dress in performance, focusing on authorship, comprehension, and the recognisable definition of a visual language. Costume designers will frequently develop narratives around the costuming of characters, to aid the decision making process and to draw their collaborators such as performers and directors into a shared visual language, but this could be open to misinterpretation by the intended audience. Contemporary costume schemes can be undervalued as a part of the mise-en-scène, sometimes seeming to be an extension of the actor’s own wardrobe, whereas extreme costume can become gratuitous or inhibit the imaginative journey of the audience. How do audiences who do not have access to a professional dialogue understand visual elements of costume, style, colour, and fabric? Can this be fully explored in the context of traditional live events? If it always necessary to have more detailed information as a coda, through programme notes or footage of the designer discussing their costumes for the spectator to be able to appreciate the work, does this then negate or amplify the ‘reading’ of costume.
Kristina Wirtz, Performing Afro-Cuba: Image, Voice, Spectacle in the Making of Race and History . Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014. 344 pp. (Paper US$ 30.00) Performing Afro-Cuba is an impressive study of the way stories about the past shape processes of racialization that
-Reformation triumph of the Catholic Church. 36 The event was entitled “The Foundation of the Holy Church” and was, thematically, an enactment from Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy , in which the poet witnessed a pageant of religious imagery in the Earthly Paradise ( Purg . 29). 37 The focal point of the spectacle