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Josephine Baker in Art and Life

Overview

Josephine Baker (1906-1975) was a dancer, singer, actress, author, politician, militant, and philanthropist, whose images and cultural legacy have survived beyond the hundredth anniversary of her birth. Neither an exercise in postmodern deconstruction nor simple biography, Josephine Baker in Art and Life presents a critical cultural study of the life and art of the Franco-American performer whose appearances as the savage dancer Fatou shocked the world.

 

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Overview

Josephine Baker (1906-1975) was a dancer, singer, actress, author, politician, militant, and philanthropist, whose images and cultural legacy have survived beyond the hundredth anniversary of her birth. Neither an exercise in postmodern deconstruction nor simple biography, Josephine Baker in Art and Life presents a critical cultural study of the life and art of the Franco-American performer whose appearances as the savage dancer Fatou shocked the world.

 

Although the study remains firmly anchored in Josephine Baker’s life and times, presenting and challenging carefully researched biographical facts, it also offers in-depth analyses of the images that she constructed and advanced. Bennetta Jules-Rosette explores Baker’s far-ranging and dynamic career from a sociological and cultural perspective, using the tools of sociosemiotics to excavate the narratives, images, and representations that trace the story of her life and fit together as a cultural production.

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Editorial Reviews

Kaiama L. Glover
Still, Baker has inspired several biographies and documentaries, and the question arises about the need for yet another. But Bennetta Jules-Rosette, the author of Black Paris and other books, makes a solid case for just one more with her well-researched and original Josephine Baker in Art and Life. Like many writers before her, Jules-Rosette is clearly captivated by her subject, but she manages to temper her star-struck curiosity with impressive intellectual rigor.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Savage dancer, Black Venus, exotic Jazz Age star, liberated new woman, gender-bending cross-dresser, mother, socialist, war hero and writer—Josephine Baker (1906–1975) was all of those in life and in the images she projected. In this vibrant if academic portrait of Baker, Jules-Rosette alerts the reader that this is "not a biography" but an exploration of "the complex construction of Baker's multiple images in art and life." The first part opens with the tourist attractions that Baker sparked, not with her birth, then moves through her stage performance history, and concludes with an analysis of her films and films about her. In Part II, Baker emerges as a fully independent figure, influencing the art and fashion worlds, and in Part III, Jules-Rosette discusses the obstacles Baker confronted as she struggled to promote her ahead-of-its-time multicultural worldview. Jules-Rosette's scholarly deconstruction, generously documented (including more than 50 illustrations) and supplemented with a chronology, particularly helpful in a thematically structured work, will reward Baker fans. As well, the book's careful documentation, ample bibliography and discography add tremendous value for readers engaged in cultural, ethnic, diaspora or women's studies. (Apr.)

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
This is a thoughtful, scholarly study of Josephine Baker (1906–75)—performer, writer, activist, and philanthropist—whose life and fame embraced numerous contradictions, ranging from her 1925 role as the savage dancer Fatou in La revue nègreand her onstage shows at the Folies Bergère to her alliance with French Counterespionage Services and her work on behalf of children and global harmony. Jules-Rosette (director, African & African American studies, Univ. of California, San Diego; Black Paris) includes thoroughly researched details about Baker's engrossing life. Using sociosemiotic methods, she goes well beyond biography to explore skillfully the symbols and images Baker created and projected. She elicits their broader meaning and influence in terms of art, gender, race, politics, universal brotherhood, and more. Through Jules-Rosette's review of diverse materials—including posters, photographs, scripts, Baker's own writings, costumes, and humanitarian and political pursuits—a sensitive and in-depth story emerges, revealing the cultural relevance of a remarkable woman whose impact still reverberates. Fifty-one photographs enhance this innovative volume, which should be a welcome addition to large academic and public collections as well as to university reading lists.
—Carol J. Binkowski
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780252074127
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press
  • Publication date: 3/14/2007
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 392
  • Sales rank: 999,126
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Bennetta Jules-Rosette is a professor of sociology and the director of African and African-American Studies at the University of California, San Diego.  She is the author of a number of books including Black Paris, African Apostles, and The Messages of Tourist Art.

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Table of Contents


List of Illustrations     ix
Foreword: A Luminous Humanism   Simon Njami     xii
Preface     xv
Acknowledgments     xvii
Prologue     1
Creating the Image
Touring with Baker's Image     13
Opening Nights     47
Celluloid Projections     72
Living the Dream
Dress Rehearsals     127
Baker's Scripts     155
Hues of the Rainbow in a Global Village     184
Changing the World
Legendary Legionnaire     213
Echoes and Influences     243
Eternal Comeback     268
Chronology     287
Notes     297
Bibliography     327
Discography     341
Index     345
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