The City in Film Noir

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Midwest Modern Language Association (MMLA 2014)
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The city in film noir is a site of aspiration and anxiety. Juxtaposed against the agrarian ideal, the noir city is a lure, a maze, a trap. Noir cities suggest forms of escape; they enable and restrict the challenges gender, class and race pose to the normative. Noir plots are set in motion by the anonymity and disruption of the metropolis; noir archetypes – the grifters, the tycoons, the femme fatales, the ambiguous foreigners – are cosmopolitan figures. This panel seeks papers that may examine the depiction of cities in classic, neo-, B- , documentary or parody noirs, the influence of émigré auteurs in envisioning American cities, architecture as mis-en-scene, cosmopolitanisms, gendered space.

The scholarship on Film noir often concentrates on the genre's thematic unities and historical precedents and context. This panel focuses on a less frequently discussed topic: the setting. Although the noir label is sometimes applied in hybrid form, i.e., Western noir, Gothic noir, the vast majority of noir films are inextricably linked to their contemporary urban setting. To speak about noir plots and noir characters is to speak about metropolitan figures who can exist only in an urban landscape. In addition, this panel emphasizes the link between the thematic and generic conventions of film noir and a setting which simultaneously challenges and reinforces social doctrines and norms. The proposal thus avoids the binaries often deployed in the discussion of noir and encourages an analysis of subversive elements in what is essentially a commercial enterprise.

Deadline Extended to June 7, 2014.