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Differences in the Dark: American Movies and English Theater
     

Differences in the Dark: American Movies and English Theater

by Michael T. Gilmore
 

George Bernard Shaw once quipped that America and England are two cultures separated by a common language. In this innovative attempt to place the movies and theater in the larger context of American and English cultural differences, Michael Gilmore demonstrates that the most interesting way to understand the distinctions between the two cultures is by looking

Overview

George Bernard Shaw once quipped that America and England are two cultures separated by a common language. In this innovative attempt to place the movies and theater in the larger context of American and English cultural differences, Michael Gilmore demonstrates that the most interesting way to understand the distinctions between the two cultures is by looking closely at each country's favorite art form.

Differences in the Dark is a fresh, wide-ranging look at the meaning of America's fascination with movies and movie stars, and the way the soul of Britain is reflected in its tenacious love affair with the stage.

Gilmore shows how the characteristic features of American experience are inscribed in how movies, the quintessentially American idiom, are made and viewed. In the private, solitary nature of film-viewing (in contrast to the more communal, interactive experience of seeing a play), and in American actors' tendency to play themselves, not their characters, from role to role, American movies express a strong sense of individualism and a tendency to escape the limits of time for the freedom of space. An art form built of sophisticated technology and cutting and splicing of time and space, Gilmore argues, resonates deeply in the country of reinvented lives and wide-open spaces.

At the same time, the English tradition of class and collective memory is perfectly served by an art form that requires disciplined memorization and the submergence of the individual within a role that, in many cases, existed before the actor was born. Unlike the mechanical products of Hollywood or Disneyland, drama by its very nature cannot be mass-produced.

Bringing together such diverse topics as theme parks, realism, and social class, as well as the role of Jewish immigrants in the making of Hollywood (and their virtual exclusion from Great Britain) and the connection between the movies and the African-American community, Differences in the Dark is one of the most original and engaging cross-cultural studies to appear in many years.

Editorial Reviews

New Republic - Stanley Kauffmann
Gilmore sketches profiles of two societies, American and Britain.... From this, he works out that film... is predominantly in America, while the theater, which upholds 'customary values against the possible future symbolized by movies,'dominates Britain.... The thesis... teases us—toward a comfortable sense of cultural arrangement.

Journal of Popular Culture
Gilmore's lively account raises questions many of us have never thought of—or dared to bring up... One of the more engaging cross-cultural studies in recent years, [it] has major implications for popular culture.

New Republic
Gilmore sketches profiles of two societies, American and Britain.... From this, he works out that film... is predominantly in America, while the theater, which upholds 'customary values against the possible future symbolized by movies,'dominates Britain.... The thesis... teases us — toward a comfortable sense of cultural arrangement.

— Stanley Kauffmann

Stanley Kauffmann
Gilmore sketches profiles of two societies, American and Britain. . . . From this, he works out that film . . . is predominantly in America, while the theater, which upholds 'customary values against the possible future symbolized by movies, ´ dominates Britain. . . . The thesis . . . teases us -toward a comfortable sense of cultural arrangement.
Sacvan Bercovitch
Gilmore´s book is a groundbreaking comparativist and interdisciplinary study of theatre and film in England and the United States. It will set new directions in the several fields it brings together -film studies, the drama, and American studies -and it will become a standard work in modern cultural history. In its combination of scholarly precision, critical rigor, and intellectual daring -in its depth of knowledge as well as in its breadth of implication -Differences in the Dark should provide a model for interdisciplinary work in general. This lucid and brilliant book deserves the widest possible audience.
Wilson Quarterly
A small, rich production that deserves applause from both sides of the Atlantic.
Martin Jay
Original, risk-taking, and provocative. Although best known as an accomplished student of American literature, Gilmore shows himself to be no less a master of cinema history, theatrical tradition, and British culture. I know of no other book like this one.
Mark Carnes
Gilmore´s argument is lively, controversial, and eye-popping. The purpose of this collection is to stimulate thought and inquiry; it provides provocative hypotheses rather than definitive answers.
Booknews
Examines the cultural differences between England and America via each country's favorite art form<-->movies in America and the theatre in Britain. Gilmore (English and American literature, Brandeis U.) shows how the characteristic features of the American experience, such as individualism and escapism, are inscribed in how movies are made and viewed. Similarly, he shows how the English tradition of class and collective memory is perfectly served by an art form that requires disciplined memorization and the submergence of the individual within a communally recognized role. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231112246
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
06/17/1998
Pages:
192
Product dimensions:
6.29(w) x 9.37(h) x 0.83(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are Saying About This

Mark Carnes
Gilmore's argument is lively, controversial, and eye-popping. The purpose of this collection is to stimulate thought and inquiry; it provides provocative hypotheses rather than definitive answers.

Sacvan Bercovitch
A groundbreaking comparativist and interdisciplinary study of theatre and film in England and the United States. It will set new directions in the several fields it brings together—film studies, the drama, and American studies—and it will become a standard work in modern cultural history. In its combination of scholarly precision, critical rigor, and intellectual daring—in its depth of knowledge as well as in its breadth of implication—Differences in the Dark should provide a model for interdisciplinary work in general. This lucid and brilliant book deserves the widest possible audience.

Martin Jay
"Original, risk-taking, and provocative. Although best known as an accomplished student of American literature, Gilmore shows himself to be no less a master of cinema history, theatrical tradition, and British culture. I know of no other book like this one."

Meet the Author

Michael T. Gilmore teaches English and American literature at Brandeis University. He is the author of American Romanticism and the Marketplace, a contributor to The Cambridge History of American Literature, and a coeditor of Rethinking Class.

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