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Hollywood Has-Beens

Friday, November 8, 2013
12:00 AM
3222 Angell Hall

Kevin Kopelson, Professor of English from the University of Iowa, will be discussing the queer dimensions of movie musicals from the 1950s and 1960s, including The Band Wagon (1953), A Star is Born (1954), and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962).

What does it mean to become a has-been? Consider “Lina Lamont” in Singin’ in the Rain (1952), a spectacular if still rather graceful failure (as a soon-to-be-former silent-film star) who does not realize that she is a failure; “Tony Hunter” in The Band Wagon (1953), an uncanny, unaccountable success (as a soon-to-be star of Broadway); “Norman Maine” in A Star is Born (1954), a former action-film star (and now an alcoholic suicide); “Jane Hudson” in the revoltingly yet entertainingly campy What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), a former star of vaudeville (and now an alcoholic murderess); “Miss Mazeppa” in Gypsy (1962), a middle-aged, rather gimmicky stripper (and also a very effective teacher); and, worst of all, “Honoré Lachaille” in Gigi (1958), a man whose charm is lost, it would seem, on everyone but the man himself. In this presentation, Kevin Kopelson will argue that academics have much to learn from these movie musicals – despite what Adorno would have said about them. We can learn to cope, for instance, with a certain kind of "chagrin." Better yet, we can also learn to feel – and therefore to produce in our readers – a kind of "delight."

Kevin Kopelson is Professor of English at the University of Iowa. He is the author of six books, including: Beethoven’s Kiss: Pianism, Perversion, and the Mastery of Desire; The Queer Afterlife of Vaslav Nijinsky; and the somewhat satirical Confessions of a Plagiarist: And Other Tales from School.

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Co-sponsored by the Department of English Language and Literature and Department of Comparative Literature.