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English faculty co-edit essay collection on new queer cinema

RELEASED: Jan. 6, 2011

EAU CLAIRE — Members of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire faculty have had a collection of essays titled "Coming Out to the Mainstream: New Queer Cinema in the 21st Century" published.

JoAnne Juett
Dr. JoAnne Juett

Dr. JoAnne Juett, assistant professor of English, and Dr. David Jones, associate professor of English and women's studies, co-edited the book. Contributing writers, including international scholars and film producers, present their views on new queer cinema in the 21st century and address the emergence of queer films in the mainstream. Through this collection, the editors assess how the movement may affect public perception of LGBTQ lives and stories, and explore how this perception could lead to a new wave of acceptance.

The project began at a gathering of the 2007 Midwest Modern Language Association convention in Cleveland, where Jones and Juett co-chaired a panel presentation on gay cinema. Following the discussion, representatives from Cambridge Scholars Publishing suggested that they submit a proposal.

Dr. David Jones
Dr. David Jones

Juett, who contributed her own essay on the topic, titled "Just Travelin' Thru': Transgendered Space in Transamerica," speaks to the need for social and political transformation.

"This comes at a time of growing social and political debate on a range of LGBTQ topics, which is leading to small, but significant breakthroughs," said Juett, whose essay explores the perception of different genders and the way barriers are broken when that understanding is changed.

"I consider how a film explores transgender experience in two ways: through the constraints of medical discourse related to sex-reassignment surgery and through the constraints of Protestant, evangelical discourse," Juett said. "Ultimately, 'Transamerica' opens possibilities of resistance to binary reduction of gender identification through medical or religious discourse while revealing the actuality of the physical and mental pain and struggle of transgender experience."

Dr. Bob Nowlan, associate professor of English at UW-Eau Claire, also contributed to the project. Juett and Jones invited him into the project because of his extensive scholarship and teaching in the area of queer film studies.

Nowlan wrote the opening chapter about relations between queer theory and queer cinema, and contributed an essay about underground new queer cinema, analyzing the film "Urbania."

Jones' essay is titled "Hegemonic Whiteness and the Humboldt Murders: Boys Don't Cry, Historical Memory, and The Ghostly Absence (Presence) of Phillip DeVine." He explores the absence of an African-American character from "Boys Don't Cry," a film about young adults murdered in a small conservative town in Nebraska.

"The film is based on a notorious hate crime that led to a national movement for LGBTQ justice — the murder of three young adults, including Teena Brandon, a female-to-male pre-operative transsexual, living as a male in a conservative small-town environment," Jones said. "I use quite a bit of information reported in historical and journalistic sources to discuss the director's creative license and to regret the fact that an opportunity may have been lost to help strengthen alliances between African-American and LGBTQ communities."

With the collection, Juett and Jones wish to reach out to people of different ethnicities, backgrounds and sexual orientations.

"I think we developed a good balance of perspective — including some voices who feel strongly that the film movement made a permanent contribution toward more tolerance in our culture, and other voices who felt that when new queer cinema first emerged, it was edgier and more challenging, only to be watered down when mainstream cinema began to tell LGBTQ stories more often," Jones said.

For more information or to order the collection, visit the Cambridge Scholars Publishing website.

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BC/RD/DW

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