Monday, April 27, 2015

Shelley Stamp

Shelley Stamp is Professor of Film and Digital Media at the University of California, Santa Cruz. A leading expert on women and early film culture, she is author of Movie Struck Girls: Women and Motion Picture Culture after the Nickelodeon and founding editor of Feminist Media Histories: An International Journal. Stamp also provides audio commentary for DVDs, curates film programs, and consults on film preservation projects.

Stamp's new book is Lois Weber in Early Hollywood.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’ve just started reading two books that I’ve been excited about for a long time: Tami Williams’ study of early French filmmaker Germaine Dulac, Germaine Dulac: A Cinema of Sensations, and Mary R. Desjardins’ book Recycled Stars: Female Stardom in the Age of Television and Video. Dulac is an incredibly interesting figure, a pioneering surrealist, film theorist, and feminist activist, whose legacy has been unjustly neglected in histories of French filmmaking. Williams spent years combing French archives for lost film prints and details about Dulac’s life and career and she provides a stunning re-reading of Dulac’s accomplishments. I’ll be teaching Dulac’s work in few weeks and can’t wait to update my lecture with all of this new information. Desjardins’ work is a model of feminist media history, for she places her deeply historicized readings of how women’s images circulate in popular culture within detailed accounts of movie fan culture, industry business, lawsuits, scandals, and histories of then-new technologies like television and video. She has found an amazing array of material – everything from Gloria Swanson’s 1948 TV talk show to Lucille Ball’s family scrapbooks circulated on CD-ROM.

In the fiction department I just finished Sarah Waters’ novel The Paying Guests, a psychological thriller set in London after the first World War. Waters is always phenomenal. I have read every one of her books as they have come out. What astounds me is her ability to bring to life everyday subtleties in women’s lives during quite distinct historical periods – Victorian England, the Edwardian period, the Blitz – while spinning slow-burning tales of violence and intrigue. The Paying Guests manages to paint a vivid picture of class and gender inequality in post WW I England while winding up to an unbearably tense finale. I spent a recent Sunday afternoon happily engrossed in the final chapters, oblivious to family life around me.

With my 9-year-old daughter I am reading I Am Malala. I keep expecting that she will be terrified, as I am, by the events described in the book, but she remains resolutely focused on Malala Yousafzai’s extraordinary courage, never wanting to skip passages or look away, while my voice cracks as I struggle to read the passages aloud. How lucky she is to have such a feminist role model so close to her own age. And I’m re-reading Natalie Babbitt’s Tuck Everlasting with my 11-year-old boys after having already gobbled it up with my daughter. It’s an exquisitely written story that combines many of my favorite ingredients: striking historical detail, a strong heroine, psychological nuance, and a central mystery slowly unraveled. It’s something of a cross between Anne of Green Gables and The Hunger Games, if that makes any sense. The book came as a gift. We have all loved it so much that we now plan to go back and read every one of Babbitt’s books together. It’s rare that we are all so passionate about the same book, so we won’t waste this opportunity.
Learn more about Lois Weber in Early Hollywood at Shelley Stamp's webpage and the University of California Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Lois Weber in Early Hollywood.

--Marshal Zeringue