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Professor's new book explores femininity in classic Hollywood films

English professor DAvid Greven delves deep into "classic Hollywood" during the rise of the female movie star to explore sexuality, gender roles and recurring themes in his new book, "Representations of Femininity in American Genre Cinema: The Woman's Film, Film Noir and Modern Horror." The book, available later this month from Palgrave Macmillan, is an analysis of the depiction of women characters and female narratives in the woman's film, a genre of classic cinema targeted to a female audience, and the recurring themes that also permeate the film noir and modern horror genres.

"Greven's 'Representations of Femininity in American Genre Cinema' offers a richly provocative challenge to received ways of thinking about the woman's film and its place in the history of American popular film," Brett Farmer, author of "Spectacular Passions: Cinema, Fantasy and Gay Male Spectatorships," wrote in one review. Farmer adds that with a dynamic mix of deep textual analysis, psychoanalysis and queer theory, Greven creates "a powerfully original work that is sure to prove an enlivening contribution to debates in film, gender and culture studies." In the book, Greven, a self-described "scholar-fan" of cinema, pop culture and literature, identifies and analyzes classic themes that still have relevance today - in film, but also in literature and in American culture in general.

"Mother-daughter relationships are crucial to the woman's film, particularly the struggle between the modern-day career woman and the mother who wants to keep her daughter within the realm of the traditional home and family life," Greven said. "You see this struggle play out in classic films like 'Now, Voyager,' but also in later films. There is obviously something very powerful there." Greven, whose three previous books include "Manhood in Hollywood from Bush to Bush" and "Gender and Sexuality in Star Trek," says his research is influenced by the literature and film classes he teaches at Connecticut College.

"In my classes, I discuss the ways in which certain recurring problems in culture have a very long history, and emphasize the ways in which artists and authors influence each other," he said. "For example, if I'm teaching Hawthorne and Poe, I'll also teach Hitchcock to demonstrate how the struggle for masculine power and women's struggles to be recognized are constant themes across these texts." The students, Greven said, recognize many of the same issues in contemporary society and are able to indentify linkages across different genres and disciplines, which helps him make connections in his own research.

"My teaching enriches my scholarship, and vice versa," he said. "It's like a great conversation."

April 20, 2011