Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Screening Culture: Constructing Image and Identity

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Screening Culture: Constructing Image and Identity

Article excerpt

H.N. Nicholson (ed.), Screening Culture: Constructing Image and Identity (Lanham/ Boulder/New York/Oxford: Lexington Books, 2003), 311pp. Cloth. $70. ISBN 0-7391- 0521-2.

Heather Norris Nicholson's contribution to this fine book is so substantial (chapter-length introductions to each section, authorship of four of the thirteen chapters) that she might be designated primary or co-author. She considers film as both expression and empowerment, linked to identity politics and representing a shift from coloniser representation and essentialised identities to self-representation and complex or 'hybrid' identities (pp. 179, 186).

Screening Culture is intelligent, respectful, insightful and well written. Occasionally, an error or omission skews the argument. For example, 'Old Man River' might be considered a historic signifier, but not for the reason given here (p 161). The song is not a 'spiritual'; it was composed by non-African-Americans for the musical 'Showboat'. Seen as both racist and anti-racist in different times and places, its Toronto revival was the subject of protest in the early 1990s. Paul Robeson rewrote the lyric, changing stereotype ('You get a little drunk, and you land in jail') to dignified action (You show a little spunk'). In true spirituals, religious imagery usually symbolises movement towards freedom (e.g., 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot').

It is a pleasure to see Shelly Niro's work discussed at length and in depth (pp. …

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