Lecture examines music, race and gender

Pullman – “The Racial and Gendered Life of an American Song: Irving Berlin’s ‘Heat Wave’ on Film and Stage” is the topic of a lecture to be given March 23 by Caryl Flinn, professor of women’s studies and media arts at the University of Arizona. Flinn’s lecture can be heard at 11:10 a.m. in room 518 of the Smith Center for Undergraduate Education, at the Washington State University campus.

Flinn, the author of three books, teaches courses in film theory and history, feminist and gender theory, and popular culture. She has published articles in the areas of film music, sound, and feminist and queer theory, and her work “Brass Diva, a cultural biography of Ethel Merman,” will be published this year by UC Press.

Flinn said she hopes to provide a case study that shows the extent to which popular entertainment both diverts and articulates a number of shifting attitudes on important issues like racism and women’s sexuality.

Referring to her research on Merman for the upcoming book, Flinn said, “I was intrigued by the appearance of the Irving Berlin song ‘Heat Wave’ in two Merman musicals made 15 years apart. One of those movies makes quite a big deal about that particular song. Berlin’s piece relies on deliberate ethnic and sexual associations. Some of the ways in which the song suggests race and sexuality are pretty hysterical,” said Flinn. “In my talk I look at some of the historical, ideological and institutional shifts that might account for such differences.”

Flinn’s lecture is sponsored by the Washington State University College of Liberal Arts, the American Studies Program, and the Film Studies Program.

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