One effective method of teaching theory is to focus on a popular text and provide competing interpretations. Howe, Caron, and Click gather a cluster of such perspectives as they converge on the polysemic, iconic auteur filmmaker Charlie Chaplin. Offering a wide range of theoretical perspectives-Marxism, feminism, psychoanalysis-contributors exhume and dissect the body of Chaplin and his work, studying his screen persona and public celebrity. The approach serves both to highlight neglected aspects of the complex artist and to illumine theory. Charles Maland's introductory essay inaugurates this conversation by exploring the enduring appeal of both Chaplin and his cinematic persona Charlie. In his phenomenological study of Charlie's kinesic slapstick, Caron shows the clown as clumsy fool, 'eironic trickster,' and comic acrobat. Several essays offer particularly fascinating perspectives, especially Cynthia Miller's 'A Heart of Gold: Charlie and the Dance Hall Girls' and Click's rhetorical analysis of The Great Dictator. The critical collisions and cross-fertilizations among the contributors foster a lively, worthwhile intellectual exchange. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. CHOICE Refocusing Chaplin is recommended for libraries and research centers, especially at the university level, for its intelligent, thorough examination of perhaps the most important figure in cinema's history. Examiner.com
About the Author
Lawrence Howe is professor of English and Film Studies at Roosevelt University. He is the author of Mark Twain and the Novel: The Double-Cross of Authority (2009). James E. Caron is professor of English at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. He is the coeditor of Sut Lovingood's Nat'ral Born Yarnspinner: Essays on George Washington Harris (1996) and author of Mark Twain, Unsanctified Newspaper Reporter (2008). Benjamin Click is Chair of the English Department at St. Mary's College of Maryland and Director of the Twain Lecture Series on American Humor Culture.