When Andy Kaufman succumbed suddenly to lung cancer in 1984, some of his fans believed that his death was yet another elaborate prank. Over the previous decade, Kaufman had achieved improbable fame for his bizarre antiperformances—lip-synching the Mighty Mouse theme song, reading The Great Gatsby aloud in its entirety when people expected comedy, asking audience members to touch a boil on his neck—that perplexed, annoyed, or offended his viewers.
In Andy Kaufman, Florian Keller explores Kaufman’s career within a broader discussion of the ideology of the American Dream. Taking as his starting point the 1999 biopic Man on the Moon, Keller brilliantly decodes Kaufman in a way that makes it possible to grasp his radical agenda beyond avant-garde theories of transgression. As an entertainer, Kaufman submerged his identity beneath a multiplicity of personas, enacting the American belief that the self can and should be endlessly remade for the sake of happiness and success. He did this so rigorously and consistently, Keller argues, that he exposed the internal contradictions of America’s ideology of self-invention.
Keller posits that Kaufman offered a radically different—and perhaps more potent—logic of cultural criticism than did more overtly political comedians such as Lenny Bruce. Presenting close readings of Kaufman’s most significant performances, Keller shows how Kaufman mounted—for the benefit of an often uncomprehending public—a sustained and remarkable critique of America’s obsession with celebrity and individualism.
Florian Keller is a fellow at the Institute of Cultural Studies, School of Art and Design, University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Zurich.
In Fighting for Recognition, R. Tyson Smith enters the world of independent professional wrestling, a community-based entertainment staged in community centers, high school gyms, and other modest venues. Like the big-name, televised pro wrestlers who originally inspired them, indie wrestlers engage in choreographed fights in character. Smith details the experiences, meanings, and motivations of the young men who wrestle as "Lethal" or "Southern Bad Boy," despite receiving little to no pay and risking the possibility of serious and sometimes permanent injury. Exploring intertwined issues of gender, class, violence, and the body, he sheds new light on the changing sources of identity in a postindustrial society that increasingly features low wages, insecure employment, and fragmented social support. Smith uncovers the tensions between strength and vulnerability, pain and solidarity, and homophobia and homoeroticism that play out both backstage and in the ring as the wrestlers seek recognition from fellow performers and devoted fans.
The antagonists—oiled, shaved, pierced, and tattooed; the glaring lights; the pounding music; the shouting crowd: professional wrestling is at once spectacle, sport, and business. Steel Chair to the Head provides a multifaceted look at the popular phenomenon of pro wrestling. The contributors combine critical rigor with a deep appreciation of wrestling as a unique cultural form, the latest in a long line of popular performance genres. They examine wrestling as it happens in the ring, is experienced in the stands, is portrayed on television, and is discussed in online chat rooms. In the process, they reveal wrestling as an expression of the contradictions and struggles that shape American culture.
The essayists include scholars in anthropology, psychology, film studies, communication studies, and sociology, one of whom used to wrestle professionally. Classic studies of wrestling by Roland Barthes, Carlos Monsiváis, Sharon Mazer, and Henry Jenkins appear alongside original essays. Whether exploring how pro wrestling inflects race, masculinity, and ideas of reality and authenticity; how female fans express their enthusiasm for male wrestlers; or how lucha libre provides insights into Mexican social and political life, Steel Chair to the Head gives due respect to pro wrestling by treating it with the same thorough attention usually reserved for more conventional forms of cultural expression.
Contributors. Roland Barthes, Douglas L. Battema, Susan Clerc, Laurence de Garis, Henry Jenkins III, Henry Jenkins IV, Heather Levi, Sharon Mazer, Carlos Monsiváis, Lucia Rahilly, Catherine Salmon, Nicholas Sammond, Phillip Serrat, Philip Sewell
The World of Lucha Libre
Heather Levi Duke University Press, 2008 Library of Congress GV1196.4.S63L48 2008 | Dewey Decimal 796.812
The World of Lucha Libre is an insider’s account of lucha libre, the popular Mexican form of professional wrestling. Heather Levi spent more than a year immersed in the world of wrestling in Mexico City. Not only did she observe live events and interview wrestlers, referees, officials, promoters, and reporters; she also apprenticed with a retired luchador (wrestler). Drawing on her insider’s perspective, she explores lucha libre as a cultural performance, an occupational subculture, and a set of symbols that circulate through Mexican culture and politics. Levi argues that the broad appeal of lucha libre lies in its capacity to stage contradictions at the heart of Mexican national identity: between the rural and the urban, tradition and modernity, ritual and parody, machismo and feminism, politics and spectacle.
Levi considers lucha libre in light of scholarship about sport, modernization, and the formation of the Mexican nation-state, and in connection to professional wrestling in the United States. She examines the role of secrecy in wrestling, the relationship between wrestlers and the characters they embody, and the meanings of the masks worn by luchadors. She discusses male wrestlers who perform masculine roles, those who cross-dress and perform feminine roles, and female wrestlers who wrestle each other. Investigating the relationship between lucha libre and the mass media, she highlights the history of the sport’s engagement with television: it was televised briefly in the early 1950s, but not again until 1991. Finally, Levi traces the circulation of lucha libre symbols in avant-garde artistic movements and its appropriation in left-wing political discourse. The World of Lucha Libre shows how a sport imported from the United States in the 1930s came to be an iconic symbol of Mexican cultural authenticity.
When most people think of the celebrated greatness that is Coach Dan Gable, they think of an almost mythic intensity toward wrestling. Gable breathes and bleeds the sport, and faithfully applies lessons learned from both on and off the mat. Expanding upon Gable’s first collection of stories, A Wrestling Life 2 goes a little deeper into the mindset and life events that have shaped the man, the wrestler, and the coach.
Through stories funny, heartfelt, intense, and always engaging, Gable shares more about the life he has lead and what can be learned from those experiences. He goes on to detail what have come to be known as the Gable Trained principles that he follows to keep his life full of “wins,” the revelations about how to cultivate success at the highest levels, and the reasons behind these steps for living well.
A Wrestling Life spent two months on the New York Times sports bestseller list, and has become an instant classic of sports memoirs. A Wrestling Life 2 is sure to add to Gable’s ever-growing legacy and entertain and inspire wrestling fans everywhere.
What does it take to be an Olympic gold medalist and to coach a collegiate team to fifteen NCAA titles? In A Wrestling Life: The Inspiring Stories of Dan Gable, famed wrestler and wrestling coach Dan Gable tells engaging and inspiring stories of his childhood in Waterloo, Iowa; overcoming the murder of his sister as a teenager; his sports career from swimming as a young boy, to his earliest wrestling matches, through the 1972 Olympics; coaching at the University of Iowa from the Banachs to the Brands; life-changing friendships he made along the way; and tales of his family life off the mat. A celebration of determination, teamwork, and the persevering human spirit, A Wrestling Life captures Gable’s methods and philosophies for reaching individual greatness as well as the incredible amount of fulfillment and satisfaction that comes from working as part of a team.
Whether we are athletes or not, we all dream of extreme success and are all looking to make our future the best it can be, but along the way we will undoubtedly need time to recover and rejuvenate. Let these stories inspire you to find your path to strength and achievement along whatever path you take.
Wrestling to Rasslin’ traces the roots of one of man’s oldest competitive sports. Beginning in sporting bars in the late 1800s and graduating to Barnum sideshow tents, wrestling has thrilled the world over with such early athletes as William Muldoon, George Hackenschmidt, and Tom Jenkins. After World War II and the advent of television, wrestling took a turn toward the dramatic, emphasizing conflicts between good and evil.
Wrestling with Diversity
Sanford Levinson Duke University Press, 2003 Library of Congress KF4755.L48 2003 | Dewey Decimal 342.730873
“Diversity” has become a mantra within discussions of university admissions policies and many other arenas of American society. In the essays collected here, Sanford Levinson, a leading scholar of constitutional law and American government, wrestles with various notions of diversity. He begins by explaining why he finds the concept to be almost useless as a genuine guide to public policy. Discussing affirmative action in university admissions, including the now famous University of Michigan Law School case, he argues both that there may be good reasons to use preferences—including race and ethnicity—and that these reasons have relatively little to do with any cogently developed theory of diversity. Distinguished by Levinson’s characteristic open-mindedness and willingness to tease out the full implications of various claims, each of these nine essays, written over the past decade, develops a case study focusing on a particular aspect of public life in a richly diverse, and sometimes bitterly divided, society.
Although most discussions of diversity have focused on race and ethnicity, Levinson is particularly interested in religious diversity and its implications. Why, he asks, do arguments for racial and ethnic diversity not also counsel a concern to achieve religious diversity within a student body? He considers the propriety of judges drawing on their religious views in making legal decisions and the kinds of questions Senators should feel free to ask nominees to the federal judiciary who have proclaimed the importance of their religion in structuring their own lives. In exploring the sense in which Sandy Koufax can be said to be a “Jewish baseball player,” he engages in broad reflections on professional identity. He asks whether it is desirable, or even possible, to subordinate merely "personal" aspects of one’s identity—religion, political viewpoints, gender—to the impersonal demands of the professional role. Wrestling with Diversity is a powerful interrogation of the assumptions and contradictions underlying public life in a multicultural world.
For millennia, two biblical verses have been understood to condemn sex between men as an act so abhorrent that it is punishable by death. Traditionally Orthodox Jews, believing the scripture to be the word of God, have rejected homosexuality in accordance with this interpretation. In 1999, Rabbi Steven Greenberg challenged this tradition when he became the first Orthodox rabbi ever to openly declare his homosexuality. Wrestling with God and Men is the product of Rabbi Greenberg’s ten-year struggle to reconcile his two warring identities. In this compelling and groundbreaking work, Greenberg challenges long held assumptions of scriptural interpretation and religious identity as he marks a path that is both responsible to human realities and deeply committed to God and Torah. Employing traditional rabbinic resources, Greenberg presents readers with surprising biblical interpretations of the creation story, the love of David and Jonathan, the destruction of Sodom, and the condemning verses of Leviticus. But Greenberg goes beyond the question of whether homosexuality is biblically acceptable to ask how such relationships can be sacred. In so doing, he draws on a wide array of nonscriptural texts to introduce readers to occasions of same-sex love in Talmudic narratives, medieval Jewish poetry and prose, and traditional Jewish case law literature. Ultimately, Greenberg argues that Orthodox communities must open up debate, dialogue, and discussion—precisely the foundation upon which Jewish law rests—to truly deal with the issue of homosexual love.
This book will appeal not only to members of the Orthodox faith but to all religious people struggling to resolve their belief in the scriptures with a desire to make their communities more open and accepting to gay and lesbian members.
2005 Finalist for the Lambda Literary Awards, for Religion/Spirituality
Courts have often treated the two religion clauses of the First Amendment as contradictory, with the free exercise clause used to protect religious practices and the establishment clause employed to limit the public expression of religious beliefs. Wrestling with God not only reconciles the relationship between the two clauses but also distinguishes them in terms of their respective purposes.
When and where did science begin? Historians have offered different answers to these questions, some pointing to Babylonian observational astronomy, some to the speculations of natural philosophers of ancient Greece. Others have opted for early modern Europe, which saw the triumph of Copernicanism and the birth of experimental science, while yet another view is that the appearance of science was postponed until the nineteenth century.
Rather than posit a modern definition of science and search for evidence of it in the past, the contributors to Wrestling with Nature examine how students of nature themselves, in various cultures and periods of history, have understood and represented their work. The aim of each chapter is to explain the content, goals, methods, practices, and institutions associated with the investigation of nature and to articulate the strengths, limitations, and boundaries of these efforts from the perspective of the researchers themselves. With contributions from experts representing different historical periods and different disciplinary specializations, this volume offers a fresh perspective on the history of science and on what it meant, in other times and places, to wrestle with nature.
You can find a Starbucks coffeehouse almost anywhere, from Paris, France to Paducah, Kentucky, from the crowded streets of Thailand to shopping malls in Qatar. With nearly 200 of them in New York City alone, this coffee retail giant with humble beginnings has become an actor and icon in the global economy. As we sip our cappuccinos, frappuccinos, and our double half-caf venti low-fat mochaccinos, many of us wonder if Starbucks is a haven of civilization or a cultural predator, a good or bad employer, a fair trader or a global menace. In this entertaining and provocative ramble through Starbucks's ethos and actions, Kim Fellner asks how a coffeehouse chain with a liberal reputation came to symbolize, for some, the ills of globalization.
Armed with an open mind and a sense of humor, Fellner takes readers on an expedition into the muscle and soul of the coffee company. She finds a corporation filled with contradictions: between employee-friendly processes and anti-union practices; between an internationalist vision and a longing for global dominance; between community individuality and cultural hegemony. On a daily basis Starbucks walks a fine line. It must be profitable enough to please Wall Street and principled enough to please social justice advocates. Although observers might argue that the company has done well at achieving a balance, Starbucks's leaders run the risk of satisfying neither constituency and must constantly justify themselves to both.
Through the voices of Central American coffee farmers, officers at corporate headquarters, independent café owners, unionists, baristas, traders, global justice activists, and consumers, Fellner explores the forces that affect Starbucks's worth and worthiness. Along the way, she subjects her own unabashedly progressive perspective to scrutiny and emerges with a compelling and unexpected look at Starbucks, the global economy, our economic convictions, and the values behind our morning cup of joe.
In Wrestling with the Left, Barbara Foley presents a penetrating analysis of the creation of Invisible Man. In the process she sheds new light not only on Ralph Ellison’s celebrated novel but also on his early radicalism and the relationship between African American writers and the left during the early years of the cold war. Foley scrutinized thousands of pages of drafts and notes for the novel, as well as the author’s early journalism and fiction, published and unpublished. While Ellison had cut his ties with the Communist left by the time he began Invisible Man in 1945, Foley argues that it took him nearly seven years to wrestle down his leftist consciousness (and conscience) and produce the carefully patterned cold war text that won the National Book Award in 1953 and has since become a widely taught American classic. She interweaves her account of the novel’s composition with the history of American Communism, linking Ellison’s political and artistic transformations to his distress at the Communists’ wartime policies, his growing embrace of American nationalism, his isolation from radical friends, and his recognition, as the cold war heated up, that an explicitly leftist writer could not expect to have a viable literary career. Foley suggests that by expunging a leftist vision from Invisible Man, Ellison rendered his novel not only less radical but also less humane than it might otherwise have been.