206 Slices
  Title Author Publisher Format Buy Remix
Medium 9780253353801

7 Lebowski and the Ends of Postmodern American Comedy

Edward P Comentale Indiana University Press ePub

Matthew Biberman

What kind of humor is Coen comedy?

The question is difficult in no small measure because comedy itself is difficult to explain. In this essay I offer a reading of The Big Lebowski that situates the film in a tradition of Jewish humor animated by social anxieties about nonconformity and collective psychotic behavior. My thesis is that Coen comedy ceaselessly dramatizes such anxieties and presents them as a kind of psychological training ground for surviving the future.

The standard argument about classifying Coen humor argues that it is best categorized as an instance of “postmodern parody” or “postmodern pastiche.” Clustering Lebowski with such “dark” 1990s comedies as The Cable Guy (1996), The Truman Show (1998), Serial Mom (1993), and Pulp Fiction (1993), Christopher Beach, for example, asserts that such films display “a mastery not only of the comic tradition but also of various other film and television genres, any of which are fair game for its postmodern pastiche” (205, emphasis mine). Similarly, Peter Körte and Georg Seesslen argue that “Coen films positively encourage us to use words like ‘post-modern’ or ‘manneristic’ to describe them” (260). The film is, they write, “a parody of plot twists of so many films noir or contemporary cop movies” (196) and, further, that “Coen country . . . has always been a pastiche,” and in this case, they produce a filmic landscape in which “the 1960s and 1970s almost simultaneously return as parodies of themselves” (200–201). Underscoring this point, R. Barton Palmer has a chapter in his study of the Coens simply called “The Coen Brothers: Postmodern Filmmakers,” where we again learn that “The postmodernist’s characteristic mode is pastiche, the so-called flat parody famously first identified by Fredric Jameson as one of the most distinguishing features of the aesthetic” (58).

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253349118

10. Nina Khanchandani

Pravina Shukla Indiana University Press ePub

IN INDIA, as in many countries of the world, men are the ones entangled in commerce. They are the merchants, cooks, and waiters, while women work in the domestic sphere. In public, it is easier to meet men, especially the men of commerce who are accustomed to easy exchange, and my quest to meet new women in Banaras began, logically, with a merchant. After several visits to Hemant Khanchandani’s Dayaram Fashion Centre, his hospitality of tea and sometimes samosas did not seem to him enough. He invited us home for a meal. He lives a short walk from his shop, just off of Luxa Road, which is crowded with hotels, restaurants, and clothing stores. As is usual in Banaras, Hemant shares his home with the members of his extended family: his widowed mother, his older and younger brothers, his wife and sister-in-law, and four young adult children—two his own and two his older brother Parmanand’s. Their house is hidden behind a tiny convenience store called Pariwar Provisions, the Family Provisions shop. The name fits, since different members of the family share the duty of running the business. This joint family, in contrast to many others in Banaras, seems to be happy and comfortable, which is one of the reasons I was attracted to Hemant’s household.

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253340481

Chapter Ten Events Follow Events

Samuel S. Bak Indiana University Press ePub
Medium 9780253348920

3. Colonial Rupture and Innovation: The Colonizer as Inadvertent Patron

Sidney Littlefield Kasfir Indiana University Press ePub

3

COLONIAL RUPTURE AND INNOVATION: THE COLONIZER AS INADVERTENT PATRON

Narrating warriorhood in early colonial Kenya and Nigeria invoked parallel stories of what the British referred to as “spear-blooding” and “headhunting.” In both situations, the British colonial administration directly intervened to contain (in Samburu) or suppress (in Idoma) a cultural practice that seemed to flagrantly undermine what the colonizers saw as their civilizing mission. I now take up the backstory, which is about the spears and the heads and their own subsequent transformations, for what they reveal about the capacity of colonialism to affect artisanal practice. Far from suppressing the inventiveness or creativity of blacksmiths and woodcarvers, colonial interventions unintentionally stimulated it. Quite simply, while literary representations and informal discourse both reflected and influenced colonial policy, those policies often misfired, and what began as an attempt to coerce or control was either impossible to implement or contained internal spaces and contradictions that allowed unintended and unforeseen results to emerge. This was the case for both the Samburu spear ban and the banning of Idoma war dances that used skulls.

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253349118

11. Neelam Chaturvedi

Pravina Shukla Indiana University Press ePub

WHEN I FIRST TALKED to Neelam Chaturvedi in the spring of 1996, she was an art teacher in the Sunbeam private school in Banaras. Unlike Nina, a Sindhi living in a Sindhi household, Neelam is a Punjabi married into a Brahmin family from Banaras. Being born in India to Punjabi parents who were displaced from their native Pakistan, Neelam has developed an adaptive personal style. Constant adjustment to different contexts is a main theme of her choices in life and adornment, a pattern evident in our interviews. My main tape-recorded conversations with her, which lasted several hours, took place in Neelam’s bedroom, upstairs in her mother-in-law’s house a few blocks from the vast red temple dedicated to Durga in Banaras.1

When she was growing up in Banaras, Neelam spoke Punjabi at home with her parents, yet she was exposed to Hindi at school and to the local Bhojpuri dialect of the servants. Neelam learned Hindi and Bhojpuri, and, though she was scolded for speaking these ill-regarded languages in the presence of her parents, she grew up speaking what she calls a “mix” of languages. Her shifting between Punjabi and Hindi, choosing one or the other in different contexts, is like the double-coding used by immigrant children who grow up in America, adapting and conforming to two cultures simultaneously.

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253353801

12 Holding Out Hope for the Creedence: Music and the Search for the Real Thing in The Big Lebowski

Edward P Comentale Indiana University Press ePub

Diane Pecknold

Midway through The Big Lebowski, a hapless Dude—having substituted Walter’s phony “ringer” (a bag full of underwear) for Lebowski’s briefcase full of money in delivering ransom to a group of apparent kidnappers—contacts the police to report that his car, with the briefcase and his Creedence Clearwater Revival tapes inside, has been stolen. When he wanly asks whether the police often recover such stolen cars, one of the cops replies, “Sometimes. Wouldn’t hold out much hope for the tape deck, though.” “Or the Creedence,” adds a second cop derisively, suspiciously twiddling the Dude’s bowling-pin-shaped one-hitter between his fingers.

The scene aptly summarizes the pervasive flux between ersatz and authentic that underpins the narrative of the film. The real briefcase, of course, turns out to have been a fake itself. The lost Bunny turns out not to have been lost to the kidnappers at all, and in fact not even to be named Bunny Lebowski, but Fawn Knutsen. And maybe she has been lost after all, since her parents are looking for her. The accumulation of real objects that turn out to be fake, and fake ones that turn out to be real, though never in the way we are led to expect, is the central device of the film’s noir plot. Appropriately, it is within this dizzying array of inauthentic objects of yearning that “the Creedence” is introduced, not just as the music we have heard playing in the car during the ransom payoff, but as a recurring point of identification for the Dude.

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253353801

3 Dudespeak: Or, How to Bowl like a Pornstar

Edward P Comentale Indiana University Press ePub

Justus Nieland

What condition is the Dude’s linguistic condition in? Obviously, it’s fucked. But how? We might start with the fact that the Dude’s language, more often than not, is not his own, but a stoned mimesis of the phrase making of others. Dudespeak is mimicry, a compulsive borrowing from the stylized tissue of verbiage whose repetitions, loopings, and displacements constitute the film’s linguistic world. Examples abound: “This aggression will not stand, man”; “Her life was in our hands, man”; “In the parlance of our times, you know”; “Johnson?”; “You mean, coitus?”; “Beaver? You mean vagina?” All are citations, increasingly absurd sound bites whose discrepant reappearance in other contexts becomes so much linguistic grist for the Coens’ comic mill. Even what has come to be the Dude’s signature phrase, the linguistic encapsulation of an ethos—“The Dude abides”—is a rescripting of the purported limits of Jeffrey “the Big” Lebowski’s tolerance, his refusal to “abide another toe.” So, while the Dude, “quite possibly the laziest man in Los Angeles County,” may be prone to such mimetic locutions, Dudespeak exemplifies the broader expressive world of the film: “sometimes there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place, he fits right in there . . . and that’s the Dude, in Los Angeles.”

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253348920

8. Samburu Encounters with Modernity: Spears as Tourist Souvenirs

Sidney Littlefield Kasfir Indiana University Press ePub

8

SAMBURU ENCOUNTERS WITH MODERNITY: SPEARS AS TOURIST SOUVENIRS

This chapter concerns the interplay between commodified and noncommodified forms and the situating of Samburu cultural practice within the creative tension between representation and identity. The souvenir, an object that both represents and identifies, operates at the intersection of memory and experience. More specifically, souvenirs commodify a particular type of memory associated with the tourist experience, which in Kenya is centered on the safari.1

SAFARI TOURISM AND THE SAMBURU

The way the process of cultural commodification took hold was very different in British-held East and West African colonies. While West Africa, and especially Nigeria after the Benin Punitive Expedition of 1897, became a major site of specimen-collecting by museums of ethnology, East Africa instead became a safari destination. Beginning with Teddy Roosevelt’s legendary elephant-hunting safari early in the century, affluent foreigners journeyed to Kenya, Uganda, and Tanganyika to hunt among the vast herds of wild game and the spectacular landscape of snow-capped mountains (Mt. Kenya, Mt. Kilimanjaro, the Rwenzoris) that frame the two branches of the Great Rift Valley.

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253006875

11. Undisciplined Knowledge

Joanna Grabski Indiana University Press ePub

ALLAN DESOUZA AND ALLYSON PURPURA

This chapter explores the possibility of art-writing occupying a space that is “undisciplined,” where it resists categorization and translation into the domain of art history. We propose that such a space is enabled not only through dialogue but also by recognizing the multi-sited character of art-making and the effects that its movement, politics, and social relations can have on writing about and framing contemporary art. Constructed as a series of exchanges between the two of us, this chapter builds on the contingencies and temporal qualities of its own making; we tack back and forth, betraying and probing our own disciplinary biases in an effort to meet in the middle. The chapter is defined by its process, which, despite its mix of anecdotes, external references, and tentative offerings, is not an example of the undisciplined per se, but rather an exploration of its possibilities.

Purpura: In February 2008, I attended a conference at Harvard University, “New Geographies of Contemporary African Art,” in which artist Allan deSouza was asked to present a paper on his work that was written by a scholar who, the audience was told, was unable to attend the conference. What follows is an excerpt from deSouza's presentation.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781603444668

6. Into the Gulf (almost): Gulf Prairies and Matagorda Bay

Margie Crisp Texas A&M University Press ePub

GULF PRAIRIES AND MATAGORDA BAY

Tiny whitecaps run upstream against the current, slap the kayak hull, and explode into my face. If I stop paddling for a second, sweeper trees reach out and tangle branches in my hair. After disengaging myself from an amorous willow tree, I have had enough. In a snit, I yell at the wind, “I give up!” and hold my paddle high overhead. The wind grabs the kayak and spins me dizzily up stream where I’m deposited on a gravel bar under a high sand bank. The cold blast and the relentless whistling is blocked; I hear the rumble of traffic on nearby roads, the squeals and keening of killdeer, lesser yellowlegs, and spotted sandpipers as they dodge and bow along the banks. A peevish cry catches my attention. Above me, an adult bald eagle hunches miserably in the crown of a dead cottonwood, feathers ruffled for warmth and looking less than dignified. The giant bird seems just as irritated as I am with the sudden drop in temperature and the onslaught of stiff wind. Buoyed by the eagle’s grumpy camaraderie, I head back into the wind and fight my way downstream.

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253015976

9 Thresholds of New African Dramaturgies in France Today

Kenneth W Harrow Indiana University Press ePub

Mária Minich Brewer

Not all voices can be heard at the same time in the same story/history.

Kossi Efoui, Solo d’un revenant

THIS COLLECTION OF essays, Rethinking African Cultural Productions, offers an occasion to question theater’s physical and symbolic borders, frontiers, separations, and border crossings. Working as it does across multiple thresholds and dimensions simultaneously, whether of time, space, language, or the body, the art of the theater engages its public in critical considerations of and across borders. A new generation of African diasporic playwrights of the 1990s have thoroughly reinvented the social and symbolic possibilities for new theatrical languages. In this essay, I propose to map out some of the theatrical thresholds implicit in such a project of reinventing a new theatricality. This critical work on thresholds, I argue, needs to focus explicitly on the symbolic, social, and material dimensions of writing for performance.

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253348920

Reprise: The Three C’s: Colonialism, Commodities, and Complex Representations

Sidney Littlefield Kasfir Indiana University Press ePub

Reprise

THE THREE C’S: COLONIALISM, COMMODITIES, AND COMPLEX REPRESENTATIONS

It remains to summarize these changing representations and practices within the particular historical circumstances the book describes. There were many colonialisms operating simultaneously in sub-Saharan Africa following its partition among the European powers at the Berlin Conference of 1884–1885. British colonial policy, following the implementation of Lord Lugard’s mandate for indirect rule after World War I, was less intrusive than most. Throughout most of the colonial period, the whole of Nigeria was administered by a corps of about 200 district officers (Smith 1968). Local rulers were expected to continue to govern their subjects as they had before and at the same time recognize the overarching authority of the British administration. Kenya, which had few towns or precolonial governing structures, had to be administered by direct rule implemented by about the same number of officers (Gavaghan 1999). “Native custom” was to be respected as long as it did not interfere seriously with what the British saw as their civilizing mission. Unlike French colonial policy, which assumed that Africans, when properly educated and enculturated, could become black Frenchmen, British policy was based on the racial assumptions that the African was too different from the European to ever assimilate European culture beyond formal changes and that any attempts in that direction could only result in a cruel parody (see Joyce Carey’s Mr. Johnson). This had very important implications for the rate at which change took place, since it left the institutions intact that directed and regulated life at the local levels.

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253009036

13 Rhetorics of Resistance: The Port Huron Project

Daniel J Sherman Indiana University Press ePub

MARK TRIBE

When I started teaching at Brown University in 2005, I was surprised by how little antiwar protest there was on campus. Brown has a long history of student activism: the eruptions of 1968 culminated in Brown’s adoption of progressive new curriculum drafted by students, and in 1985 students erected shanties and staged hunger strikes to protest the university’s investments in companies doing business in South Africa. It was clear that my students objected to American involvement in Iraq and the Bush administration’s disregard for civil liberties, but they seemed to believe that resistance was futile. It is not hard to imagine why. In 2000 they witnessed a presidential election that many believed had been stolen. In 2003 many students participated in the largest antiwar protests in history (the BBC estimated that six to ten million people in sixty countries protested the imminent invasion of Iraq on February 15 and 16 of that year), but the Bush and Blair administrations were undeterred.1 In 2004 many students worked on John Kerry’s presidential campaign only to see George W. Bush reelected by a narrow margin amid accusations of voting fraud. Their formative political experiences had left them demotivated, if not cynical.

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253008145

TWO Veiling without Veils: Modesty and Reserve in Tuareg Cultural Encounters • SUSAN J. RASMUSSEN

Elisha P Renne Indiana University Press ePub

In this chapter, I analyze the power and vulnerability of a gendered cultural value that not only involves the literal wearing of veils, but also incorporates a more general respect, shame, and modesty, called takarakit in Tamajaq, the local Berber (Amazigh) language of the Tuareg residing in oases and towns of Niger, Mali, Algeria, Libya, and Burkina Faso. This concept conveys several related yet distinct sentiments or attitudes. Most Tuareg are Muslim, semi-sedentarized, socially stratified, and until recently, predominantly rural and nomadic, but now semi-nomadic.1 Local mores permit much free social interaction between the sexes, and most women enjoy high social prestige, can independently own property, and are not secluded or veiled; rather, it is men who are veiled. During evening festivals, social occasions, and courtship between the sexes, takarakit and “veiled” sentiments with indirect expression are traditionally encouraged, albeit with some social license. In the pre-colonial stratified, endogamous social system, persons who were forbidden to marry were allowed to flirt at the evening festivals. Despite some degree of relaxation permitted under cover of darkness, takarakit has long been particularly important there, with highly stylized etiquette, stricter for men than for women. More generally, men are supposed to always respect women, whether during informal sociability, in courtship conversation, or at the evening musical festivals, and are not supposed to boast of or discuss openly their relations with women. Men ideally should be modest, even self-effacing, in women’s presence. They should not be aggressive or coercive toward women. Thus there is some coincidence between takarakit and respectful conduct more generally. There is also an overlap between takarakit and some other values, such as imojagh (dignity or honor) and eshshek (decency). As anywhere, not everyone follows this ideal conduct. Takarakit is both asserted and violated, a “flashpoint” for debate.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781603444668

3. River Revealed: Cross Timbers and into the Llano Uplift

Margie Crisp Texas A&M University Press ePub

CROSS TIMBERS AND INTO THE LLANO UPLIFT

Below the dam at O. H. Ivie, the Colorado River cuts across layers of time, digging into the exposed shelves of millions of years. Alluvial deposits along the bed and banks of the river are recent, but the river has relentlessly carved away at the cover of Cretaceous rocks exposing the tilted stacks of old sedimentary rocks in the broad basin. On a geological map, multiple parallel bands of color stripe north to south. The river slices across in a twisting gold line of alluvial soils, descending from young to old, across pale bands of Permian limestone and shale, pink blobs and squiggles of sediment eroded from the Cretaceous and Permian rocks upriver, and into the dark blue patterns of older, exposed Pennsylvanian sandstones. Curving in a tight arc, the river bounces between the old sandstones and tongues of limestone and shale before snaking down the deep canyons of ancient Ordovician limestones into the heart of the Llano Uplift.

In this length of river, seven or eight counties, depending on how you count them, crowd up to the river, nudge each other’s shoulders, and wiggle their toes in the stream. It is a land of big ranches, white-tailed deer and turkey hunting, a few row crops, and pecan orchards. The river regains its strength, pulls water from creeks and springs, and works its way back into a free-flowing stream for a few miles before running into the dams of the Highland Lakes downstream.

See All Chapters

Load more