Our guest today is Maggie Hennefeld, McKnight Presidential Fellow and Associate Professor of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, who has co-curated a dvd set of the medium’s early female comedians titled Cinema’s First Nasty Women. Maggie talks us through the current resurgence in interest in silent cinema and the global landscape of festivals, supporters and restoration projects, as well as her own journey of scholarship in the field that led to her collaborating on this important project. All this interest seems long overdue considering the fantastically experimental and entertaining material, which is raucous, varied and vast, often making radical social commentary that still resonates today. Maggie vividly describes several highlights in this comprehensive collection, and the women who were behind and in front of the camera. In addition to assembling, restoring and annotating the films, the team also engaged over 45 mostly female composers to write and perform both traditional and avant-garde scores for each film, and she talks extensively about that process. We also discuss the erasure of this material from the silent film canon, and women from comedy (among many other fields) in general, and how these films both give us a new understanding of comedy in this era, even as they inform our on-going struggles with sexism and racism today, by showing us images of women that are simultaneously empowering and troubling. All films are contextualized with expert commentary, allowing them to be used in classrooms or otherwise as jumping-off points for deeper conversation. Finally, Maggie shares some thoughts from the book she’s currently working on about the notion of “hysterical laughter” and its supposed danger to women.
Here are some of the references from this episode, for those who want to dig a little deeper:
Maggie Hennefeld’s other publications:
Death from Laughter, Female Hysteria and Early Cinema
Specters of Slapstick and Silent Film Comediennes
Female Filmmakers, Producers, and Comedians
Minnie Devereaux – “Fatty and Minnie He-Haw”
Undercrank Productions (silent film restoration)
“In Time” by Dylan Emmett and “Spaceship” by Lesion X.
In Time (Instrumental) by Dylan Emmet https://soundcloud.com/dylanemmet
Spaceship by Lesion X https://soundcloud.com/lesionxbeats
Creative Commons — Attribution 3.0 Unported — CC BY 3.0
Free Download / Stream: https://bit.ly/in-time-instrumental
Free Download / Stream: https://bit.ly/lesion-x-spaceship
Music promoted by Audio Library https://youtu.be/AzYoVrMLa1Q