Performative Histories, Foundational Fictions
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Performative Histories, Foundational Fictions

By Anu Koivunen
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Book Description

Films are integral to national imagination. Promotional publicity markets “domestic films” not only as entertaining, exciting, or moving, but also as topical and relevant in different ways. Reviewers assess new films with reference to other films and cultural products as well as social and political issues. Through such interpretive framings by contemporaries and later generations, popular cinema is embedded both in national imagination and endless intertextual and intermedial frameworks. Moreover, films themselves become signs to be cited and recycled as illustrations of cultural, social, and political history as well as national mentality. In the age of television, “old films” continue to live as history and memory.

In Performative Histories, Foundational Fictions, Anu Koivunen analyzes the historicity as well as the intertextuality and intermediality of film reception by focusing on a cycle of Finnish family melodrama and its key role in thinking about gender, sexuality, nation, and history. Close-reading posters, advertisements, publicity-stills, trailers, review journalism, and critical commentary, she demonstrates how The Women of Niskavuori (1938 and 1958), Loviisa (1946), Heta Niskavuori (1952), Aarne Niskavuori (1954), Niskavuori Fights (1957), and Niskavuori (1984) have operated as sites for imagining “our agrarian past”, our Heimat and heritage as well as “the strong Finnish woman” or “the weak man in crisis”. Based on extensive empirical research, Koivunen argues that the Niskavuori films have mobilized readings in terms of history and memory, feminist nationalism and men’s movement, left-wing allegories and right-wing morality as well as realism and melodrama. Through processes of citation, repetition, and re-cycling the films have acquired not only a heterogeneous and contradictory interpretive legacy, but also an affective force.

This book is part of the Studia Fennica Historica series.

Table of Contents
  • Performative Histories, Foundational Fictions
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • Contents
  • ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
  • INTRODUCTION: PERFORMATIVE FRAMINGS, FOUNDATIONAL FICTIONS
    • Prologue: from Niskavuori to Tara
    • Public fantasies across the cultural screen: questions and aims
    • Exploring the “given-to-be-seen”: the theory
    • Performativity and film studies: the background
    • Interpretive framings, narrative images: the method
    • The roots and routes of Niskavuori: the intermedial framework
    • The sites of framing: the research material
    • Outline of the book
  • THE ARCHIVE – NISKAVUORI AS HERITAGE AND HEIMAT
    • Anathema to history? Niskavuori films in the televisual age
      • Versions of history
      • Television as a history machine
    • A heritage experience: Niskavuori (1984)
      • The making of national cinema
      • Museum aesthetics: simulating heritage
    • Remembering Heimat: post-war Niskavuori films
      • History or memory: Niskavuori Fights (1957)
      • Blut und Boden: Aarne Niskavuori (1954)
      • Picturing the homeland: Loviisa (1946) and Aarne Niskavuori (1954)
      • Heimat as history and memory
    • In the beginning there was history
  • THE MONUMENT-WOMAN: MATRON, MOTHER, MATRIARCH, AND MONSTER
    • A modern monument to tradition: The Women of Niskavuori (1938)
      • The power and persistence of tradition
      • The secret warmth underneath
      • Monumental, memorial, museal – modern
    • The monumental “Finnish woman”
      • The making of the monument, or becoming-a-woman in Loviisa (1946)
      • The “Finnish woman”: peasant, national, and feminist
    • Mother Earth: Aarne Niskavuori (1954)
    • Matriarch and monster: deconstructing the monument in the 1950s
      • Cornerstone of the propertied class
      • Masculine women, pathological “(s)mothers”
      • Power-figures and she-devils: Louhi, Loviisa, and Heta Niskavuori (1952)
      • From doubling to splitting: postulating authorial intentions
    • A rye dynasty: matron or mafioso?
      • Parodic reiterations: Pohjavuorelaisia (1972)
      • Seductions of the monument
  • THE MAN-IN-CRISIS: FROM THE WEAK MAN TO THE SUBJECT OF HISTORY
    • Protect the Finnish man! Aarne and Juhani Niskavuori in the age of television
    • The unhappy Oedipus in The Women of Niskavuori (1938)
    • Half peasant, half gentleman
    • The sovereign man: Tauno Palo as the spectacular lover
    • Rehabilitating manhood: The prodigal son and the missing father
      • Niskavuori is a male tragedy!
      • Akusti as the missing father
    • The Subject of history: The narrative re-focalization in the 1980
  • SEXUAL POLITICS: PASSION, REPRESSION, AND TRANSGRESSION
    • Reading against the grain: reading repression in the 1990s and 1980s
      • The decades of innocence and the stubborn drive
    • The gendered and classed grammar of nation
      • Malviina
      • Siipirikko, the Broken-Winged
      • Steward
    • The first reception: The Women of Niskavuori (1936, 1938) and the cultural crisis
      • A drama of ideas or a marital drama?
      • A new woman
      • The hysterical wife
    • The fallen peasant and other scandals: re-viewing the censorship debate
      • Appropriating censorship
      • The lure of lyricism, or the cinematic sex appeal
    • Passion without politics? Readings of Niskavuori as soap opera
    • Haunting signatures: framing the authorial legend
  • RE-CITABLE LEGACIES, MELODRAMATIC PLEASURES
    • Re-citable legacies
    • Melodramatic pleasures
  • BIBLIOGRAPHY: Primary research material
  • Appendix 1: Niskavuori films (1938—1984)
  • Appendix 2: The Niskavuori story on radio and television (1945–2000)
  • Appendix 3: Niskavuori plays in theatres (1936—2000)
  • Appendix 4: Review journalism and articles in newspapers, popular magazines and trade press
  • Appendix 5: Archival sources (trailers, posters, programme leaflets, pr-material)
  • Appendix 6: Other published material on Hella Wuolijoki and Niskavuori plays and films
  • Appendix 7: List of audiovisual citations
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