1. Homi Bhabha, "Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse," October, 28 (1984), 130.
2. Laura Levitt, Jews and Feminism: The Ambivalent Search for Home (New York: Routledge, 1997).
3. Tania Modleski, Feminism Without Women: Culture and Criticism in a "Postfeminist" Age (New York: Routledge, 1991), 115-34.
4. This argument was culled over a number of years. I presented various takes on Modleski's essay in three different conference papers: "Jewish Sons/Jewish Daughters: Reading Tania Modleski on Race, Gender and Jewishness in Popular Film," Women's Studies Conference, University of Delaware, Newark, NE, April 1994; (2) Addressing Jewish Difference: Rereading Tania Modleski on Constructions of Race in Popular Film," The American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL, November 1994; and (3) "Race, Gender and Jewish Excess: Rereading Jewish Cinematic Difference," The American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, PA 1995. The essay that follows is a significantly revised version of "Addressing Jewish Difference."
5. Ruth Frankenberg, White Women, Race Matters: The Social Construction of Whiteness (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993). For a somewhat different but also critical reading of Frankenberg's text see Judith Levine, "The Heart of Whiteness, Dismantling the Master's House," The Voice Literary Supplement, September 1994, 11-16.
6. See back-cover of White Women, Race Matters.
7. For a different account of Jewish whiteness and the whiteness of Jews see Laura Levitt, "'Immigrant Daughters,' 'White Jews, and Embodied Readings," The Reconstructionist (Fall 1996), 41-48. See also Katya Gibel Azoulay's important study Black, Jewish, and Interracial: It's Not the Color of Your Skin, but the Race of Your Kin, and Other Myths of Identity, (Durham: Duke University Press 1997).
8. Bhabha, 132.
9. See Levitt, Jews and Feminism.
10. Bhabha, 130.
11. See Michael Rogin, "Blackface, White Noise: the Jewish Jazz Singer Finds His Voice," Critical Inquiry, 18 (Spring 1992), 417-453. As Rogin suggests "When the young Jakie Rabinowitz sings in Muller's cafe bar, he announces a cinematic revolution." But there is more, "The second sound interval is even more startling. When the grown Jack Robin (formerly Jakie Rabinowitz) sings 'Dirty Hands, Dirty Face' at Coffee Dan's, for the first time in feature films a voice issues forth from a mouth. Jack then breaks free of both the intertitles that have carried the sound, and speaks his own words. 'Wait a minute. Wait a minute. You ain't heard nothin' yet,' says Al Jolson, repeating the lines that he'd already made famous in vaudeville." (421) Later with his mother he first converses in a playful and sexually suggestive interval. On this scene see Rogin, 422-423.
12. For an important reading of the role of popular song and the complexity of the interplay between sound and silence in this film see Lynda R. Goldstein, "Cultural Interpellation: Popular Song Interpolations in Narrative Film," dissertation, Temple University, 1992. See especially chapter two, "'With a Tear in His Voice': Articulating Subjectivity Through Song Performance in The Jazz Singer," 69-144.
13. See Rogin on the more racist original scripting of this scene.
14. Another interesting moment in the film that disrupts any simple reading of such name changes is an exchange between Yudelson and the Jack's mother about his girlfriend "Mary Dale." Assuming she is not Jewish Yudelson reminds her that her name also might have been changed.
15. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 3d ed. s.v. "bizarre."
16. See Rogin on this recapitulation of the story of whiteness in American cinema as a form of legitimacy. See especially the opening sections of his essay.
17. I want to thank Janet Jakobsen for helping me think through many of these issues. I am especially grateful to her for helping me see the network of relationships among and between various forms of oppression and how they are deployed to reinforce each other.
|The Jazz Singer|