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Playing the Race Card:
Melodramas of Black and White from Uncle Tom to O. J. Simpson
Linda Williams

Book Description | Table of Contents


"[Williams] dispenses with the cant and silliness that tangles much academic talk about racial matters. . . . Steeped in the details of text and context, she invites the reader to see familiar works in fresh ways. Williams's achievement is to recapture the complexity of our tangled racial history without sanitizing racism."--Jonathan Rieder, New York Times Book Review

"Williams offers a fresh and insightful exploration of some of the roots of the American racial dilemma. . . . Well written and persuasively argued."--Choice

"A work that is extremely valuable to historians who wish to enhance the sophistication of their own thinking about teaching with film and other visual media. . . . I believe the author succeeds at what she sets out to do. In such a large, sweeping, and ambitious book as this, that is high praise indeed."--Alecia P. Long, H-Net Reviews

"This book would be valuable just for its scholarly insights, sharp contextual readings, well-selected illustrations, and imaginative genealogy of melodramatic practices across various eras. What gives it special urgency is that by locating those moments when new media (print, film, TV, video) were shaping new ways of conceiving race, Williams creates a moving picture of racial melodrama in the United States that manages to connect the polemic of Uncle Tom's Cabin to the . . . televised O. J. Simpson murder trial"--Kurt Eisen, American Literature

"Broad and brilliant, a combination rare in serious books these days, Playing the Race Card argues persuasively that melodrama has profoundly affected American attitudes toward race over the last century and a half. . . . Williams's success is to spell out exactly how the melodramatic imagination of our popular culture shapes how we live and understand race in America and how these stories make as well as narrative history."--Grace Elizabeth Hale, The Historian


"Playing the Race Card possesses all the boldness, high intelligence, and far-reaching revisionism one has come to expect from the author of the brilliant Hard Core and other path-breaking work in film studies. Linda Williams here insists on the general importance of the melodramatic mode to our understanding of the United States' ongoing racial predicament. Her arguments are extremely compelling, not least because she executes them with such thoroughgoing smartness and prodigious learning."--Eric Lott, University of Virginia

"Linda Williams's book is a beautifully written, meticulously researched, and conceptually lucid engagement with the genres of painful feeling that organize racial fantasy in the United States. It joins the works of Michael Rogin, Eric Lott, and Ann Douglas as a major statement about the founding conventions of representation and cross-racial encounter in the U.S. twentieth century."--Lauren Berlant, University of Chicago

"A tour de force of cultural analysis. The subject of Playing the Race Card is at once urgent and entertaining. Linda Williams's book is poised to do for film studies what Toni Morrison and others have so famously done for American literature: to reveal the ghost in the machine, the role of 'race' in the making of American popular culture."--Susan Gillman, University of California, Santa Cruz

"A strikingly accessible book that makes a timely appearance, now that discussions about race and representation have developed a heightened immediacy. Elegantly written and meticulously researched, this book combines scholarly rigor with clarity and insight."--Valerie Smith, University of California, Los Angeles

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File created: 4/21/2017

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