Re: RARA-AVIS: "a working class tragedy"

From: Marc Seals (
Date: 24 Sep 2005

You know, when I taught my class on noir last year, I treid to avoid definition. Rather, I gave my students a list of characteristics that were typical to noir-- femmes fatales, dizzying camera angles, dark urban settings, etc. I discovered that students tried to make these characteristics into elements of a definition; thus, I had students writing things like, "This film is not noir because it lacks an effective femme fatale."

This year, I have hopefully learned from my errors, and I instead give them a list of what I'm calling "symptoms of noir" (rather than characteristics). In each class, some student has said, "But that makes noir sound like a disease!" I smile (rather pleasantly like a brown-haired satan) and say, "Exactly...."

~Marc >:->

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Frederick Zackel

  Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" is certainly a working class tragedy. That
  Everyman sense was one of JS's hallmark. And I always see Charlie Chaplin's
  Little Tramp on the lam from murdering some blind skirt's old man. (I think
  that's Cain's "Postman," actually.) Can we consider "The Grapes of Wrath"
  noir then? And whether "The Maltese Falcon," which both begins bored-stiff
  in the office and ends bored-stiff in the same office, is the working class
  tragedy of a man who makes $25 a day....that seems like a stretch.

  How about "noir is naturalistic tragedy"?

  For some of rara-avians Canadians, the principal theme of Canadian Lit (as
  outlined by Margaret Atwood in her non-fiction book "Survival," 1972) is the
  relationship of society to its landscape. That the Canadian psyche is
  indelibly stamped by living in a vast, sparsely populated, inhospitable land
  that will kill you if you simply stand still. "You're gonna freeze in hell
  forever," that sounds noir to me. Just by being Canadian, one becomes noir?

  Best wishes,

  Frederick Zackel

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

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