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Returning the Gaze A Genealogy of Black Film Criticism, 1909-1949 by Anna Everett

Returning the Gaze A Genealogy of Black Film Criticism, 1909-1949


Returning the Gaze A Genealogy of Black Film Criticism, 1909-1949 by Anna Everett

In Returning the Gaze Anna Everett revises American film history by recuperating the extensive and all-but-forgotten participation of black film critics during the early twentieth century. While much of the existing scholarship on blacks and the cinema focuses on image studies and stereotypical representations, this work excavates a wealth of early critical writing on the cinema by black cultural critics, academics, journalists, poets, writers, and film fans.Culling black newspapers, magazines, scholarly and political journals, and monographs, Everett has produced an unparalleled investigation of black critical writing on the early cinema during the era of racial segregation in America. Correcting the notion that black critical interest in the cinema began and ended with the well-documented press campaign against D. W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation, she discovers that as early as 1909 black newspapers produced celebratory discourses about the cinema as a much-needed corrective to the predominance of theatrical blackface minstrelsy. She shows how, even before the Birth of a Nation controversy, the black press succeeded in drawing attention to both the callous commercial exploitation of lynching footage and the varied work of black film entrepreneurs. The book also reveals a feast of film commentaries that were produced during the roaring twenties and the jazz age by such writers as W.E.B. DuBois, Langston Hughes, and Zora Neale Hurston, as well as additional pieces that were written throughout the Depression and the pre- and post-war periods. Situating this wide-ranging and ideologically complex material in its myriad social, political, economic, and cultural contexts, Everett aims to resuscitate a historical tradition for contemporary black film literature and criticism. Returning the Gaze will appeal to scholars and students of film, black and ethnic studies, American studies, cultural studies, literature, and journalism.


Compelling and of great critical importance, Returning the Gaze makes a major contribution to film studies. -Dana Polan, University of Southern California Everett's fine book makes an important contribution to our understanding of black cinema, from production to journalism and criticism, as a resistance practice representing every orientation of black culture, from the popular to the political and aesthetic. This one is `must
reading for all interested in black cinema, its issues, and its critical discourse

. -Ed Guerrero, New York University Anna Everett moves African American film criticism and commentary from the margins to the center in this innovative, imaginative, and original book. Superbly researched and engagingly written, Returning the Gaze shows us the necessity of placing race at the center of the history of the American cinema, while at the same time making it clear that any adequate understanding of African American identity needs to acknowledge the centrality of cinema to the practices and processes of U.S. racial formation. -George Lipsitz, author of The Possessive Investment in Whiteness and Time Passages

About the Author

Anna Everett is Assistant Professor of Film Studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

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Book Info

Publication date

2nd April 2001


Anna Everett

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Duke University Press


376 pages


Film theory & criticism



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