Herstory: Feminist Theory and Resistance in Art & Cinema

This weekend marks the one year anniversary of the largest single day protest in US history—the Women’s March—when on January 21, 2017, 4.2 million people marched across the US in more than 600 US cities, and from Antarctica to Zimbabwe, at least 261 more sister marches cropped up worldwide. To celebrate this pivotal protest, UC Press is highlighting titles across subjects as part of our Herstory series, with today’s focus on Feminist Theory and Resistance in Art & Cinema. While just a preview of our publishing “herstory,” these titles will engage your intellect and inspire your activism today, tomorrow, and for future tomorrows.


Agnès Varda between Film, Photography, and Art by Rebecca J. DeRoo

The only female director of the French New Wave, Agnès Varda was one of four honorary Oscar winners in 2017 (again, the only woman.) With a cinematic career spanning more than six decades, Varda has experimented with all forms of filmmaking and is not only a prolific director but an accomplished photographer and artist. Her films, photographs, and art installations all focus on feminist issues and social commentary with a distinctive nonconventional and experimental style. Rebecca J. DeRoo demonstrates how Varda draws upon the histories of art, photography, and film to complicate the overt narratives in her works and to advance contemporary cultural politics.

Radical Eroticism: Women, Art, and Sex in the 1960s by Rachel Middleman

Radical Eroticism examines the importance of women’s contributions during the 1960s in fundamentally reconfiguring representations of sexuality across several areas of advanced art—performance, pop, postminimalism, and beyond. Rachel Middleman shows that erotic art made by women was integral to the profound changes that took place in American art during the sixties, from the crumbling of modernist aesthetics and the expanding field of art practice to the emergence of the feminist art movement.

 

Lois Weber in Early Hollywood by Shelley Stamp

Among early Hollywood’s most renowned filmmakers, Lois Weber was considered one of the era’s “three great minds” alongside D. W. Griffith and Cecil B. DeMille. Weber made films on capital punishment, contraception, poverty, and addiction, and her work grappled with the profound changes in women’s lives that unsettled Americans at the beginning of the twentieth century. Mentor to many women in the industry, Weber demanded a place at the table in early professional guilds, decrying the limited roles available for women on-screen and in the 1920s protesting the growing climate of hostility toward female directors. Stamp demonstrates how female filmmakers who had played a part in early Hollywood’s bid for respectability were in the end written out of that industry’s history.

Consuming Stories: Kara Walker and the Imagining of American Race by Rebecca Peabody

In Consuming Stories, Rebecca Peabody explores a significant yet neglected aspect of Walker’s production: her commitment to examining narrative depictions of race, gender, power, and desire. These stories, Peabody reminds us, not only change the way people remember history but also shape the entertainment industry. Consuming Stories shifts the critical conversation away from the visual legacy of historical racism toward the present-day role of the entertainment industry—and its consumers—in processes of radicalization.

 


On Agnès Varda, Winner of 2017 Honorary Oscar Award

by Rebecca J. DeRoo, author of Agnès Varda between Film, Photography and Art


French film director Agnès Varda will receive an honorary Oscar this November from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Which aspects of Varda’s career will the Academy celebrate? Her formidable directorial career spans from writing and directing her first film at age 25 to releasing her most recent film Faces, Places at age 89. Historically, critics have praised Varda as the innovative “mother” of the French New Wave film movement, with her first film, La Pointe Courte (1954), a precursor to the movement and Cleo from 5 to 7 (1961) made at the height of the New Wave. This identity has long overshadowed other parts of her career.

Cover image for Agnès Varda book
Available October 2017

More recently, scholars have recognized her as an essential feminist filmmaker. At the same time, Varda has continued to create new work, making films as well as multimedia art over the last two decades. And the Academy has the opportunity to celebrate Varda’s past and present work as even more innovative. Agnès Varda between Film, Photography, and Art shows that before Varda pursued cinema, she studied art history and practiced photography, and across her career, she has quietly yet subversively woven references to histories of art, photography, and film throughout her oeuvre. These references open out beyond the surface narrative of her work and engage contemporary cultural politics. This honorary Oscar recognizes Varda’s immense directorial accomplishments. But an interdisciplinary reading enables us to better appreciate the multidimensionality of Varda’s cinema and her career as both filmmaker and artist.


Art and cinema historian Rebecca J. DeRoo is an assistant professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology and co-curated the 2016 retrospective Agnès Varda: (Self)-Portraits, Facts and Fiction, at the George Eastman Museum.

 

 


Save 30% with UC Press during the Modernist Studies Association Conference

The 2017 Modernist Studies Association Conference convenes August 10 – 13 in Amsterdam.

Check out our landing page featuring UC Press across various disciplines, including Art, Music, Visual Culture, and Cinema & Media Studies. Save 30% online with discount code 17W6815, or request an exam copy for consideration to use in your upcoming classes. The discount code expires September 30, 2017.