Singin’ in the Rain — This past Saturday I went to the screening of Singin’ in the Rain at the main branch of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. Our own part-time faculty member Sam Shapiro showed this classic musical as part of the library’s film series titled “Hollywood Shoots Itself: Movies about Movies.” For more information about this film series, please click on this link: https://www.cmlibrary.org/blog/hollywood-shoots-itself-film-series.
I knew I would see Sam there, but I was pleasantly surprised to see Aaron Toscano and Alison Walsh in the audience, too. After watching the film, I talked for a little while to Sam, Aaron and Alison, and then we all went our separate ways. For a second I thought I saw the three of them dancing down Tryon Street with Alison in the middle and Sam and Aaron on either side, but it was probably just my imagination.
Released in 1952, Singin’ in the Rain is not just a famous musical; it is also a film about the history of the American film industry during the transition between the silent film era and the advent of films with sound. The film is set in the late 1920s, just after the release of The Jazz Singer, which made history as the first “talking picture.” In Singin’ in the Rain, a movie production company must respond to this change or risk being marginalized. The production company, called Monumental Pictures, ends up embracing this change. The company releases a film that takes full advantage of sound, and in the process it sets into motion the rise of movie musicals.
As I drove home humming the title song from the film, I started thinking about connections between the film and our English Department. Like the production company represented in the film, our English Department is facing broader changes that have the potential of marginalizing the department. With the growing emphasis on STEM disciplines and programs that take an applied approach to education, many English Departments are currently experiencing sharp declines in their majors and course enrollments, but not our department. In recent years, our English Department has embraced change through our innovative concentrations, our collaborations with colleagues from the STEM disciplines, and our leadership in the emerging area of digital humanities. Unlike the many English Departments that seem disheartened as they are deluged with bad news, our English Department has a much more optimistic outlook. It is as if we are singin’ in the rain.
Kudos— As you know, I like to use my Monday Missives to share news about recent accomplishments by members of our department. Here is the latest news:
Antwan Alexander, one of our recent graduates, was recently honored as one of the “30 Under 30” by Charlotte’s Black Chamber of Commerce, an honor that recognizes Charlotte’s brightest young black entrepreneurs and business professionals 30 years and under.
Sarah Minslow recently published an article in the Journal of Popular Culture Studies titled “Treat Your Chicken-eating Children ‘Right’: The Conservative Political and Evangelical Values Reinforced in Chick-fil-A’s Classic Stories and Essential Values Series.”
Malin Pereira gave a paper at the conference for MESEA (The Society for Multi-Ethnic Studies: Europe and the Americas) in Warsaw, Poland, titled “Becoming a Minority Cosmopolitan: Reading Natasha Trethewey’s Mixed Race Identity from Beyond Katrina to Thrall.” On the way there, she gave a talk on Wanda Coleman’s “Retro Rogue Anthology” at the University of Wuppertal in Germany.
Upcoming Events and Deadlines— Here is a list of upcoming meetings and events that will take place this week:
-CLAS All Faculty Mtg & Breakfast Friday, August 26 8:30-10:00am
-English Department Mtg Friday, August 26 11-12:15pm
Fretwell 290B (English Department Seminar Room)
Quirky Quiz Question — The film Singin’ in the Rain stars Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor as the two leading male actors. Who is the leading female star in the film?
Last week’s answer: the principal violinist
Like an academic departments, orchestras have their own hierarchies. In a traditional orchestra, who is second in command behind the conductor?