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Pauline Kael and the Western genre as critical displacement of self & nation: metaphorics and affects of 'taste' in American film criticism

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journal contribution
posted on 2014-04-01, 00:00 authored by Patrick WestPatrick West
Pauline Kael (1919–2001) is one of the most influential American film critics of the second half of the twentieth century. Many people are writing on her presently, with at least half an eye to her future cultural, political and historical importance. Certainly the full impact of Kael’s work, both within and beyond the borders of cinema (however defined), has not yet been established. This article unpacks the mechanisms and operations of ‘taste’ in Kael’s writings by using two notions drawn from Roland Barthes’ observations about another key figure of current cultural critique: Julia Kristeva. The comparison of Kael with Kristeva is not dwelt upon; instead, the article focuses on how Kael used the concepts of ‘taste’ and ‘dis-taste’ to draw her readership into a field of what might be termed ‘permanent dissent’. This article concludes by sketching out why Jewish-American Kael’s taste might endure, through the dual transition she occupies from a Cold War to a post-Cold War period, and from an era when cinema was the supreme, undisputed, screen artform, to the rise of the myriad screen technologies of the networked, Internet age.  Pauline Kael (1919–2001) is one of the most influential American film critics of the
second half of the twentieth century. Many people are writing on her presently, with at
least half an eye to her future cultural, political and historical importance. Certainly the
full impact of Kael’s work, both within and beyond the borders of cinema (however
defined), has not yet been established. This article unpacks the mechanisms and
operations of ‘taste’ in Kael’s writings by using two notions drawn from Roland
Barthes’ observations about another key figure of current cultural critique: Julia
Kristeva. The comparison of Kael with Kristeva is not dwelt upon; instead, the article
focuses on how Kael used the concepts of ‘taste’ and ‘dis-taste’ to draw her readership
into a field of what might be termed ‘permanent dissent’. This article concludes by
sketching out why Jewish-American Kael’s taste might endure, through the dual
transition s

History

Journal

Text

Volume

Special Issue: Taste and, and in, writing and publishing

Issue

26

Pagination

1 - 10

Publisher

Australasian Association of Writing Programs (AAWP)

Location

Gold Coast, Qld.

ISSN

1327-9556

Language

eng

Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2014, Australasian Association of Writing Programs (AAWP)

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