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The Mexicana Presence in "Duel in the Sun" and the American Western

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Abstract:

The representation of the Mexican female in "Duel in the Sun" (King Vidor, 1946) has presented film critics with a telling challenge, namely, that the Mexican woman’s identity can hardly be written about, despite its yawning presence. In the years since the controversial release of "Duel in the Sun," film scholars have written on a range of subjects related to the film, from the possibility of visual pleasure for the feminine spectator (Laura Mulvey, “Afterthoughts on ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’. . .”) to the ideological contradictions embodied within Pearl Chavez, the main character (Robin Wood, “The Destruction of an Ideological System”). These studies notwithstanding, the particularities of the Mexican woman’s presence as a cultural Other and as a woman remain to be examined in a sustained fashion, perhaps in part due to the notoriously poor performance by Jennifer Jones, the actress who played Pearl Chavez. Additionally, both the film narrative and the subsequent critiques of the film refer to Pearl as the “half-breed” or the “squaw”—indicators of her Indianness—despite her Mexican/Spanish last name. Pearl’s Mexicanness, explicitly framed by her surname, undergoes mysterious omission. “The Mexicana Presence in Duel in the Sun” proposes to tease out the elements of the repressed Mexican female in the movie. Based on my research of the archival holdings within the David O. Selznick Collection at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, I will examine the complicated production history of this film, principally through script versions and production notes, to obtain a better picture of the Mexicana presence within the narrative’s structure, as well as the meanings that the Mexicana presence produces. The presentation I propose promises a new understanding of the Mexican woman’s presence in "Duel in the Sun," and it also opens the possibility of a Mexican feminist critique of American cinema. My own previous research belies the fact that while examinations of the production of Mexican masculinities in U.S. cinema are well under way, more critiques of the depictions of Mexican women are needed.

Qualifications: I am an Assistant Professor of English at Texas A & M University. I have a Ph.D. in American Literature and Cultural Studies from The University of Texas at Austin, and I have published articles in the areas of ethnic representation in the cinema and Mexican American literature in such journals as Aztlan and Western American Literature. I am also working on a book manuscript entitled "Derision and Desire: The Ambivalence of Mexican Identity in American Literature and Film."
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Name: The American Studies Association
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http://www.theasa.net


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MLA Citation:

Alonzo, Juan. "The Mexicana Presence in "Duel in the Sun" and the American Western" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the The American Studies Association, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Philadelphia, PA, Oct 11, 2007 <Not Available>. 2013-12-15 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p186346_index.html>

APA Citation:

Alonzo, J. , 2007-10-11 "The Mexicana Presence in "Duel in the Sun" and the American Western" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the The American Studies Association, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Philadelphia, PA <Not Available>. 2013-12-15 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p186346_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Abstract: The representation of the Mexican female in "Duel in the Sun" (King Vidor, 1946) has presented film critics with a telling challenge, namely, that the Mexican woman’s identity can hardly be written about, despite its yawning presence. In the years since the controversial release of "Duel in the Sun," film scholars have written on a range of subjects related to the film, from the possibility of visual pleasure for the feminine spectator (Laura Mulvey, “Afterthoughts on ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’. . .”) to the ideological contradictions embodied within Pearl Chavez, the main character (Robin Wood, “The Destruction of an Ideological System”). These studies notwithstanding, the particularities of the Mexican woman’s presence as a cultural Other and as a woman remain to be examined in a sustained fashion, perhaps in part due to the notoriously poor performance by Jennifer Jones, the actress who played Pearl Chavez. Additionally, both the film narrative and the subsequent critiques of the film refer to Pearl as the “half-breed” or the “squaw”—indicators of her Indianness—despite her Mexican/Spanish last name. Pearl’s Mexicanness, explicitly framed by her surname, undergoes mysterious omission. “The Mexicana Presence in Duel in the Sun” proposes to tease out the elements of the repressed Mexican female in the movie. Based on my research of the archival holdings within the David O. Selznick Collection at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, I will examine the complicated production history of this film, principally through script versions and production notes, to obtain a better picture of the Mexicana presence within the narrative’s structure, as well as the meanings that the Mexicana presence produces. The presentation I propose promises a new understanding of the Mexican woman’s presence in "Duel in the Sun," and it also opens the possibility of a Mexican feminist critique of American cinema. My own previous research belies the fact that while examinations of the production of Mexican masculinities in U.S. cinema are well under way, more critiques of the depictions of Mexican women are needed.

Qualifications: I am an Assistant Professor of English at Texas A & M University. I have a Ph.D. in American Literature and Cultural Studies from The University of Texas at Austin, and I have published articles in the areas of ethnic representation in the cinema and Mexican American literature in such journals as Aztlan and Western American Literature. I am also working on a book manuscript entitled "Derision and Desire: The Ambivalence of Mexican Identity in American Literature and Film."

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