What does it mean to become a has-been? Consider “Lina Lamont” in Singin’ in the Rain (1952), a spectacular if still rather graceful failure (as a soon-to-be-former silent-film star) who does not realize that she is a failure; “Tony Hunter” in The Band Wagon (1953), an uncanny, unaccountable success (as a soon-to-be star of Broadway); “Norman Maine” in A Star is Born (1954), a former action-film star (and now an alcoholic suicide); “Jane Hudson” in the revoltingly yet entertainingly campy What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), a former star of vaudeville (and now an alcoholic murderess); “Miss Mazeppa” in Gypsy (1962), a middle-aged, rather gimmicky stripper (and also a very effective teacher); and, worst of all, “Honoré Lachaille” in Gigi (1958), a man whose charm is lost, it would seem, on everyone but the man himself. In this presentation, Kevin Kopelson will argue that academics have much to learn from these movie musicals – despite what Adorno would have said about them. We can learn to cope, for instance, with a certain kind of "chagrin." Better yet, we can also learn to feel – and therefore to produce in our readers – a kind of "delight."
Kevin Kopelson is Professor of English at the University of Iowa. He is the author of six books, including: Beethoven’s Kiss: Pianism, Perversion, and the Mastery of Desire; The Queer Afterlife of Vaslav Nijinsky; and the somewhat satirical Confessions of a Plagiarist: And Other Tales from School.
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