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Cover for the book Philosophy, Black Film, Film Noir

Philosophy, Black Film, Film Noir

Dan Flory
  • Copyright: 2008
  • Dimensions: 6 x 9
  • Page Count: 368 pages
  • Illustrations: 35 illustrations
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-271-03344-0
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-271-03345-7

Hardcover Edition: $74.95
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“The darkness of film noir was always meant to illuminate as well as reflect the shadows of the mean streets of Gangland USA. Now, in this fascinating synthesis of philosophy, film studies, and critical race theory, Dan Flory reveals to us the significance of the deeper blackness of African American noir—a light ‘doubly’ black aimed at exposing the larger crimes of White America itself.”
“Flory argues that while some examples of film noir articulate reactionary perspectives on social order, the genre can also promote perspectives critical of social inequality and offer insights into the racialized structures of American culture.”
“Flory’s book opens up many new lines of inquiry for philosophers interested in examining how films can philosophize and the role that the emotions play in prompting such reflection. Because of Flory’s extensive knowledge of contemporary film aesthetics and critical race theory, there is much we can learn about these areas from reading his book. It is a work suitable for use in mid-level and advanced undergraduate classes as well as graduate classes on aesthetics, philosophy of film, and critical race theory.”

In the past two decades, African American filmmakers like Spike Lee have made significant contributions to the dialogue about race in the United States by adapting techniques from classic film noir to black American cinema. This book is the first to examine these artistic innovations in detail from a philosophical perspective informed by both cognitive film theory and critical race theory.

Dan Flory explores the techniques and themes that are used in black film noir to orchestrate the audience’s emotions of sympathy and empathy felt toward morally complex characters whom people might not typically find appealing in real life, such as thugs, drug dealers, or murderers. Using an approach that combines the cognitive insights of theorists like David Bordwell, Noël Carroll, and Murray Smith with the reflective Wittgensteinian methods for considering film employed by Stanley Cavell, Stephen Mulhall, and William Rothman, Flory shows how these films scrutinize the state of race in America, induce their viewers to do so as well, and illuminate the ways in which categories of race have defined and continue to direct much of our vision of the moral self and what counts as appropriate moral sensibility.

Dan Flory is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Montana State University.

Contents

Illustrations

Preface

Acknowledgments

Introduction: Philosophy and the Blackness of Film Noir

Recent Philosophical Theories of Race

Philosophy, Cognition, and Film Theory

What Is Black Film?

What Is Film Noir?

Film Noir's Subversive Possibilities

What Is Black Noir?

1. Spike Lee and the Sympathetic Racist

Whoand WhatIs Sal?

Critical Reflection and Sympathetic Racists

Spike Lee and Institutional Racism

2. Noir Protagonists and Empathy in Do the Right Thing

Moral Ambiguity, Suspense, and Noir Characterization

Hitchcockian "Subjective Suspense" and the Spectrum of Noir Characters

Do the Right Thing and Noir Characterization

Empathy for Radio Raheem?

Mookie Agonistes

Da Mayor and Moral Orientation

Critical Reflection and the Role of Empathy in Do the Right Thing

3. Race and Tragedy in One False Move

A Hurricane of Sympathy and Racism

Racism, Tragedy, and Empathy

Alignment, Point of View, and Empathetic Response to Lila

Sympathetic Racists and Audience Allegiance in Black and White

4. Nihilism and Knowledge in Clockers

Cultivating Empathy for a Clocker

Internalized Racism in Teaching and Explanation

Oppression and Alternative Possibilities

Rocco Klein as Sympathetic Racist Cop

Sympathy and How to Do the Right Thing

Aesthetic Response, Race, and Black Noir

5. "Guilty of Blackness"

Flawed Noir Narratives: New Jack City and Boyz 'N the Hood

Racial Oppression and Personal Psychology: Juice

Menace II Society and the Meaning of Life

Black Noir, Nihilism, and Film as Philosophy

6. Beyond the Gangsta

Working for "the Man": Deep Cover

Narrative Voice and Epistemic Authority

Learning from the Logic of White Power

Jerry Carver, Pimp for White Power

Making a Difference Epistemologically

Against Self-Interest: The Glass Shield

Race and the Noir Lessons of History: Devil in a Blue Dress

Black Noir Moves Beyond the Gangsta

7. Other Forms of Blackness

Eve's Bayou and Its Critical Reception

Film Noir and Female Gothic Melodrama

Eve's Gothic Noir World

Noir, Empathy, and African-American Female Characters

What Is It Like To Be a Caveman?

The Injustice of the Everyday: Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned

Training Day, Empathy, and Moral Corruption

8. Noir and Beyond

White Fears of the Other: Summer of Sam

Transcending Human Differences in 8 Mile

The Evolving Racial Contract: Out of Time and Never Die Alone

Bamboozled by Blackface

A Noir Atlantic: From Hell, Empire, City of God, Dirty Pretty Things, The Constant Gardener, Catch A Fire, and Children of Men

Conclusion: Race, Film Noir, and Philosophical Reflection

Cavellian Individualities and Film as Philosophy

A Taxonomy of Empathy and Expanding Moral Imagination

Index

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