Clint Eastwood and Issues of American Masculinity

Fordham Univ Press
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In this risk-taking book, a major feminist philosopher engages the work of the actor and director who has progressed from being the stereotypical “man’s man” to pushing the boundaries of the very genres—the Western, the police thriller, the war or boxing movie—most associated with American masculinity. Cornell’s highly appreciative encounter with the films directed by Clint Eastwood revolve around the questions “What is it to be a good man?” and “What is it to be, not just an ethical person, but specifically an ethical man?” Focusing on Eastwood as a director rather than as an actor or cultural icon, she studies Eastwood in relation to major philosophical and ethical themes that have been articulated in her own life’s work.

In her fresh and revealing readings of the films, Cornell takes up pressing issues of masculinity as it is caught up in the very definition of ideas of revenge, violence, moral repair, and justice. Eastwood grapples with this involvement of masculinity in and through many of the great symbols of American life, including cowboys, boxing, police dramas, and ultimately war—perhaps the single greatest symbol of what it means (or is supposed to mean) to be a man. Cornell discusses films from across Eastwood’s career, from his directorial debut with Play Misty for Me to Million Dollar Baby.

Cornell’s book is not a traditional book of film criticism or a cinematographic biography. Rather, it is a work of social commentary and ethical philosophy. In a world in which we seem to be losing our grip on shared symbols, along with community itself, Eastwood’s films work with the fragmented symbols that remain to us in order to engage masculinity with the most profound moral and ethical issues facing us today.

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About the author

Drucilla Cornell is Professor of Political Science, Women’s and Gender Studies, and Comparative Literature at Rutgers University. She also teaches at Birkbeck College, University of London, and the University of Pretoria in South Africa.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Fordham Univ Press
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Published on
Aug 25, 2009
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Pages
232
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ISBN
9780823230143
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Language
English
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Genres
Literary Criticism / Feminist
Performing Arts / Film / History & Criticism
Philosophy / Ethics & Moral Philosophy
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Now a two-time Academy Award winner for best director, twice winner of the Directors Guild of America Award for best director, and recipient of countless other critics prizes and nominations in multiple capacities, Clint Eastwood stands alongside Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg as one of the finest directors working in modern cinema. Here, John Foote examines the long, impressive, and unlikely film career of a man who fought against expectations to forge his own way and become one of this generation's finest filmmakers. Each chapter examines a different film, beginning with Play Misty for Me (1971) and High Plains Drifter (1973) and extending to his 21st-century films Space Cowboys (2000), Blood Work (2002), Mystic River (2003), Million Dollar Baby (2004), Flags of Our Fathers (2006), Letters from Iwo Jima (2006), and Changeling (2008). This book is, in the author's own words, a study of how Eastwood managed to quietly get to this level—and a celebration of his gifts as an artist. Eastwood has evolved not only as a director, but also as an actor, a screenwriter, a producer, and a score composer, to become one of the most revered figures in Hollywood.

Perhaps it is because he started out in Hollywood with such little influence on the final product that he now demonstrates such a strong desire to collaborate with others and provide help wherever he can. In addition to casting off his reputation as a hack and accumulating two Oscar nominations for Best Actor over the past 15 years, he has guided other actors to no less than three Academy Award wins. The executives love him because he has made them money over the years—occasionally even making one for them in exchange for financial backing on other projects. Critics love him because of the care he takes in creating his films. Audiences love him because he has never lost his sense of entertainment, even as his artistry has matured.

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