Twentieth-Century Culture: Modernism to Deconstruction

By Norman F. Cantor | Go to book overview

Cultural Analysis Through Film

Film (and TV) is a highly effective medium for the expression of cultural history. In some respects the narrative and analytic qualities of film exceed the capability of expository prose in evoking complex and subtle aspects of twentieth century culture.

The following film and TV list includes works which are representative of cultural motifs at a particular moment as well as consciously contrived historical recreations of past cultural themes. While the list is far from exhaustive, viewing all these films would mean a substantial education in the main currents of twentieth century culture from 1900 to the present.


I. The Nineteenth Century Foundations of Twentieth Century Culture

Gunga Din

This 1937 Hollywood film, from a Rudyard Kipling poem, is not just a sentimental story about the nineteenth century British Raj. In itself it represents the ethos of imperialism and makes you wonder about American or at least Hollywood culture in the Age of Roosevelt. This film is so patronizingly racist it has to be seen to be believe. On the issues of imperialism and racism, the 1930's mentality is much closer, this film demonstrates, to the Victorians than to us.


Great Expectations

David Lean directed this 1947 film from Dickens' novel and if anything, improved upon it. The film subtly shows the meaning of getting ahead in Victorian society, and the tensions and anxieties it involved.


The Charge of the Light Brigade

Tony Richardson wanted his 1968 film to be a definitive critique of Victorian militarism and imperialism. He tried so hard the film was unsuccessful commercially and exhibits a hesitant, uncertain quality that was bound to confuse and annoy the mass audience (they much preferred the more simple-minded Hollywood version of the same incident, a companion piece to Gunga Din). What remains valuable in Richardson's film is the effort to get inside the minds of Victorian soldiers and show that behind their splendid uniforms, they were individuals--by no means were they all alike.

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Twentieth-Century Culture: Modernism to Deconstruction
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents xi
  • List of Illustrations xiii
  • 1 - The Nineteenth-Century Foundations of Twentieth-Century Culture 1
  • 2 - Modernism 35
  • 3 - Psychoanalysis 135
  • 4 - Marxism and the Left 183
  • 5 - Traditions on the Right 261
  • 6 - Structuralism, Deconstruction, and Post-Modernism 337
  • Conclusion 391
  • Cultural Analysis through Film 405
  • Select Bibliography 419
  • Index 429
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