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Showing posts from December, 2009

The Influence Fallacy

There is a tendency in some cultural criticism – it's rife in rock music criticism – to claim that some art work or artist is important because it or she/he influences a later art work or artist. Almost invariably, the latter is a consecrated, acknowledged “great.”

Just recently I saw on TCM one of those remembrance pieces on Sidney Poitier, claiming that his importance is the influence he had on future black actors. The piece gave the influence argument a “pioneer” spin: Poitier, in its version, allowed Denzel Washington to happen.

I'm left scratching my head, not because Poitier does not offer performances worthy of imitating or because I think contemporary actors do not think themselves in debt to Poitier. But because if I entertain the counterfactual I can see a few possible avenues of historical causation:

1) Without Poitier, American cinema stays suspended in the race-representational regimes of the 1940s and in the labor practices of the studio years. A Denzel Washington o…

Conference Calendar

In order to better keep up with relevant conferences myself, I have set up a Google calendar. A listing from it is embedded in the right sidebar. If anyone finds this of use, it is a public calendar, so feel free to add it to your own calendars.