By Joan Kee, University of Michigan
A young woman sits in the center of a room crammed with laboratory equipment (fig. 1). Behind her are glass flasks filled with unknown liquids and neatly arranged in rows. A large table juts from the painting’s right edge. It groans under the accumulated weight of numerous implements all intended to measure, gauge, and subsequently coax into orderly submission the unruly world of the living. Next to the woman is a kymograph, used for measuring physiological response in animals. Battery powered, it records responses transmitted through electrodes attached to the subjects and is frequently used in pharmacological experiments monitoring the effects of drugs. Two white rabbits housed in round wire-mesh cages below the table await their fate. Particularly conspicuous against the general pallor of the laboratory space is a black microscope placed on one corner of the table. It is positioned to the right of the young woman, who wears a laboratory coat of such dazzling whiteness that it seems to thrust her body toward the painting’s surface.
By Melissa Dinsman, York College, The City University of New York
In an evocative statement on his 1942 film Mrs. Miniver, William Wyler, famed Hollywood director and vocal advocate for wartime intervention, argues that his film “about a family” is, for all intents and purposes, propaganda. Watching Mrs. Miniver today, the film’s interventionist position is impossible to miss. That art can also be propaganda is, of course, an argument frequently made by cultural critics such as Walter Benjamin (in the final pages of “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”) or George Orwell, who famously claimed that “all art is propaganda” but “not all propaganda is art." But Wyler’s reflection holds special significance for its focus on the politics of the family drama and his suggestion that the domestic is political. As I will argue, Mrs. Miniver and similar family-centered films are propaganda not only because of their wartime content and release dates, but because they are shaped by an underlying structure of melodrama, which, by the 1940s, already had a theatrical and cinematic reputation for making social and economic appeals.
By Corey Gibson, University of Groningen
Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice; moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.
—Oxford Union Debate, December 3, 1964
This motion was adapted from Barry Goldwater’s speech at the Republican National Convention on July 16, 1964, in which he accepted the party’s presidential nomination. One month after Lyndon B. Johnson’s landslide victory over the firebrand conservative, the motion was debated in an altogether different though no less performative context. Amongst those speaking for the motion at the Oxford Union were two unlikely bedfellows: the poet, Hugh MacDiarmid, an avant-gardist in the cultural sphere and vanguardist in the political, outspoken Scottish nationalist, and professed communist ideologue, and the political activist and cultural icon, Malcolm X, former Nation of Islam minister, revolutionary black nationalist, and, increasingly during this period, anti-colonial internationalist.
By Alessandro Giammei, Princeton University
vivam, parsque mei multa superstes erit