CALL FOR ESSAYS - Blackwell Companion to Film Noir - abstracts by Dec 31st 2009

full name / name of organization: 
Dr Andrew Spicer and Dr Helen Hanson

Please note the following call for essays for the forthcoming 'Companion to Film Noir'.

Please send abstracts of 300 words by December 31st 2009 to  Dr Andrew Spicer (University of the West of England, UK) or Dr Helen Hanson (University of Exeter)

Companion to Film Noir

edited by Andrew Spicer and Helen Hanson

Blackwell's 'Companions to Film Genre' Series


As a disputed category, film noir has generated a lively interest and debate ever since the term was first used post-war France. The films that constitute the (contested) canon of film noir continue to be highly valued and enjoyed, and to produce a formidable body of commentary. Although American 'Classic' noir (1940-59) continues to create intense interest, in the last fifteen years the understanding of film noi has widened to include neo-noir (American film noir produced after 1959), film noirs in other countries (in Europe, Asia, Latin America and Australasia), and noir in other forms: comics and graphic novels, posters, radio, television and videogames, all of which now constitute what James Naremore in More than Night: Film Noir in its Contexts (1998/2008) identifies as a global and interrelated 'noir mediascape'. Since its tentative beginnings in the late 1970s, critical (and populist) discussion of film noir has become so extensive that a major overview is now necessary.

The 'Companion to Film Noir' will treat noir as a dynamic cultural form that is a global phenomenon that exists in multiple contexts, and will attempt to map this wide terrain by situating film noir within its various historical, political, social, cultural and industrial contexts. The scope of each essay is intended to be wide-ranging, the exploration of a topic rather than a particular film-maker or film, and thus to scrutinize critically existing debates and develop them further, extending analysis into new areas. We wish to encourage contributors to take intellectual risks rather than repeating the tried and tested, and to be guided by the overarching question:

what is the current state of play in film noir studies and how could it be developed most productively?


By bringing together approximately 30 essays from an international range of scholars, it is intended that the Companion will become a central text in film noir studies, one that consolidates existing work in a number of important areas, but also develops and extends that work and sets the agenda for future studies.



Identified topics

[n.b. the volume as a whole will have an introductory overview by the editors  who will also supply brief introductions to each section]

       A)    Theoretical approaches to film noir and neo-noir

 As a contested critical category, film noir always needs to be carefully defined and rigorously justified. The essays in this section will examine this ongoing debate from a range of perspectives. Following the overarching aims of the volume, the authors will extend discussion beyond the familiar parameters and  take a fresh look at the 'problem' of film noir.


1. A critical history of film noir studies   

This essay will conduct a critical survey of the history of studies of film noir  and neo-noir. What can this history tell us about the use of film noir and neo- noir as

discursive categories? I? Has its use obscured or ignored important  cultural contexts and connections, or has film noir been a genuinely important and productive concept?


      2. Hybridised film noir

Is film noir best conceived not as a singular category with clear boundaries but as a hybrid classification, composed of elements from different genres? This essay

will explore noir's relationship with science fiction, horror and westerns and the various combinations and re-combinations that have occurred.


       3. Periodizing film noir

How have film noir and neo-noir been defined chronologically and what are the implications of the conventional chronological divisions? This essay will critique the standard construction of noir chronology – film noir: 1940-1959,  neo-noir: 1981 onwards – partly by exploring American noir in the 1960s and 1970s, the so-called but undefined period of 'late noir'.


       4. The 'cult' of noir: fandom and cinephilia

 This essay will explore the ways in which specific films noir have become   fetishised objects of desire for fans and collectors but also the whole notion of film noir itself as a 'special' kind of cinema. Many studies have explored fandom and cinephilia, the increasing use of fan sites and blogs, and the rise of the film collector supported by a range of marketing devices (DVDs with 'extras etc.), but not ones that look specifically at the film noir. How has the 'cult' of noir affected our whole understanding of film noir and




     B)    A cultural history of film noir: film noir's hybrid histories/influences


 How do we account for the emergence of film noir as an historical phenomenon and what are the political, social and cultural forces that led to its  formation?


      5. European influences

This essay will explore the complex 'dialogues' between European and  American cinema in the inter-war period. The important influences of German  Expressionism and French Poetic Realism have become clichés in conventional understandings of film noir but this essay will be an opportunity to re-think and re-examine the nature of these relationships – including the role of émigré personnel – in the formation of film noir, exploring such issues as lighting technologies, sound design, narrative construction and modes of framing. 

      6. Crime fiction and noir

 This essay will re-examine the relationship between hard-boiled crime  fiction and the emergence of film noir, ranging over a broad range of authors rather than just the best known known (Hammett, Chandler, Cain and Woolrich) and will range over short stories and serialised fiction as well as full-length novels.


      7. Film precursors

A number of films have been identified that seem to anticipate the style and subject matter of film noir, but what was their production context and what is the precise nature of their role in the emergence of film noir?


      8. 1930s Horror and Gothic cinema

 Under-represented in early studies of film noir that emphasized the influence of hard-boiled crime fiction, the ways in which film noir developed from the Gothic 'tradition' is crucial in understanding its development. The essay would present an overview of existing studies and enlarge their range,  considering the horror films of the 1930s and the female gothic film.


      9. Realism and film noir

Although the 'semi-documentary' has been recognised as an important sub-category within the main film noir cycle, few studies have dwelt at any length on the significance of the rise of a realist aesthetic in the formation of film noir, nor examined in any depth noir's debt to Italian neo-realism. What is the nature of realism in film noir


      10. The influence of other cultural forms


 This essay will examine the wider cultural context within which film noir    emerged, including the development of newsreel photography and Weegee's crime photography and the influence of the 'ash can' school of painting and Edward Hopper, but also ranging more widely over other cultural forms.


      C)    American film noir and neo-noir

American film noir and neo-noir remains the central preoccupation of noir studies and the essays in this section will examine aspects of its      construction with a fresh eye. The essays fall into two unequal sections: i) the production and reception context; ii) subject matter, themes and      representation. Although there are some significant differences between noir   and neo-noir, as reflected in the first three essays on production and the specific situation around HUAC, the other essays will range across film noir and neo-noir.



Ci) Production and reception context

    11. Studio production practices


This essay will explore particular studio investments (especially those of RKO and Monogram) in the production of film noir and will examine significant  differences between the various studios. It will also explore the central role of the producer and the emergence of independent producers and production companies from the late 1940s onwards. Because existing accounts over- privilege the 1940s, this essay will be particularly concerned to examine the 1950s, looking at continuities and differences and the reasons for changes in style, subject matter.


     12. The politics of film noir: HUAC, blacklisting, left-wing critique, noir diasporas: Dassin/Endfield/Losey

This aspect of film noir has also been extensively discussed, but there is a clear need for an authoritative overview, one that would widen discussion into the careers of exiled blacklisted personnel.


      13.    Post-Studio production practices

This essay will examine the very different conditions under which films noir and neo-noirs were produced after the break-up of the 'studio system', examining the impact of 'New Hollywood' and the rise of Independent    Cinema through to 'post-cinema' of today in which DVD sales and other   forms of release dominate the marketplace.


       14.    The marketing of film noir and neo-noir

 here have been very few studies of the general processes (as opposed to ones that consider individual celebrated films) through which films noir and neo- noirs were actually marketed and promoted and this essay will rectify that gap  in knowledge.


       15.    Taste, audiences and popularity

The reception of film noir and neo-noir has not been studied systematically or in any depth and this essay will address that lack. In particular there is a need to examine different taste fractions and if/in what ways noir appealed and still  appeals more to men than women.


      16.    Visual style and cinematographers


      17.    Mise-en-scène and set design/set designers


      18.    Writing noir/noir narratives and screenwriters


      19.    Sound design 


      20 .   Music


       21    Actors and performance in film noir


The six essays in this cluster will examine aspects of film noir that are often gestured towards but rarely examined in any depth and rigour. In particular, there are no studies of set designers or set design, (or ones of   cinematographers and composers) in forging the aesthetics of noir and neo- noir. The study of stardom and performance is a developing area for film scholarship, but has yet to have much impact on discussions of film noir, hence the need for a critical and wide-ranging essay.



C2) Subject matter, themes and representation


      22.  Noir and the city          

      23.  Women in film noir

      24.  Masculinity and film noir

As these have always been important preoccupations in the analysis of noir and therefore given the extent of the existing material, these essays will be more of a critical review of conventional conceptions and how these  might be questioned and extended.

       25. Ethnicity and film noir

This is an emerging area of interest and debate, needing an overview that will focus centrally on Afro-American noir but also on the representations of other   non-white groups and communities.



       D)    Noir in other media forms/global noir

The first three essays in this section will take an overview of noir's existence in a range of media forms and within popular consciousness and the essays  will address the implications of this pervasive presence of noir. The final three will build on several studies of noir that have challenged the conventional view that it is a solely American phenomenon and have located its important presence within a range of other cinemas. These two essays will explore noir as a transnational phenomenon, taking cognizance of existing studies but, particularly in the final essay, extending their range.


      26.   Radio noir

Although noir was an important presence on radio and was very popular,    virtually nothing has been written about the numerous adaptations of hard- boiled authors and specially written tales about private eyes and other crime  investigators. This essay will fill that yawning gap.


      27.    Television noir 

Studies of the extensive production (from 1954) of television noir have begun to emerge. The essay will examine these accounts and broaden their range.


28    Comics/graphic novels

Despite widespread interest in this area there have, as yet, been no scholarly studies and this is a terrain where critical rigour is particularly necessary.


29    Global noir 1: Asian noir

 This essay will explore the increasingly important presence of film noirs in Asia, notably Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea.


30    Global Noir 2: European noir

 This essay will take an overview of the disparate films noirs that have       developed in Europe, notably in France, Britain, Germany and Italy.


31.  Unknown film noirs

 This essay will explore film noirs in countries (e.g. Latin America, India and Australia) that have not yet been mapped and critically analysed. In doing so, it will return to the central issues of this study – to the problems of defining film noir and to the politics of critical studies in creating taxonomies, in labelling and naming particular phenomena. 



Each essay should be a maximum of 8,000 words; due date: 31 January 2011.

If you would like to be considered for inclusion in the volume please send a short abstract (c. 300 words) on one of these suggested topics by 31 December 2009.

We are also open to alternative suggestions and modifications of the topics as outlined.


Please send to: 


Dr Andrew Spicer (University of the West of England):

Dr Helen Hanson (University of Exeter):



Andrew Spicer is the author of Film Noir (Longmans/Pearson, 2002), the editor of European Film Noir (Manchester University Press, 2007), and author of the Historical Dictionary of Film Noir (Scarecrow, in press, publication scheduled for March 2010).


Helen Hanson is the author of Hollywood Heroines: Women in Film Noir and the Female Gothic Film (I.B. Tauris, 2007) and the co-editor of The Femme Fatale: Images, Histories, Contexts (Palgrave, forthcoming, publication scheduled for July 2010).