The Year's Work in Critical and Cultural Studies, Oxford University Press.

Prize: Other distinction

Description

Grindhouse: Cultural Exchange on 42nd St and Beyond, named as book of the year in Media.
'This is Where We Came In', named as most groundbreaking chapter.
Alongside this growing critical engagement with cult fandom and its
associated genres, there have also been some recent books that have
attempted to problematize the term cult itself, and to shift the critical terrain
in another direction. Austin Fisher and Johnny Walker’s edited collection
Grindhouse: Cultural Exchange on 42nd Street, and Beyond, for example,
acknowledges some of the pioneering work on exploitation cinema within
cult film studies, but argues that ‘there is more to exploitation cinema than
cult criticism alone can account for’ (p. 2). For Fisher and Walker, exploitation
films are too often positioned as being ‘weird, zany, and transgressive
examples of globally celebrated paracinema’ (p. 1), and this emphasis upon
their cult credentials ‘risks undermining the historical and industrial contexts
that birthed these films in the first place’ (p. 2). Attempting to move
scholarship away from what they perceive as the overly-romanticized paracinematic
framework of cult fandom, Fisher and Walker make the case for a ‘more nuanced apperception of these films’ varied exhibition contexts’ in
order to more fully ‘interrogate the cultural implications of ‘‘grindhouse’’
mythology’ (p. 4). The goal of the book, therefore, is to challenge existing
histories of exploitation cinema and to deconstruct the critical terminology
through which it is often framed and understood:
Ultimately, Grindhouse: Cultural Exchange on 42nd Street, and Beyond
presents several revisionist histories, snapshots of historical moments
that many of us thought we already knew, and the deconstruction of
terms that are rife within the lexicon of global exploitation cinema
studies. (p. 5)
Perhaps the most groundbreaking chapter, however, is Phyll Smith’sinvestigation into original trade papers and news archives in order to establishan authoritative account of the development of ‘grind house’ as a term.As Smith explains:Constructing a new, more comprehensive and accurate etymology for‘grind’ and ‘grind house’ than the OED provides allows us to see not only the nuances of the term’s use and development but also how itwas constructed in opposition to other cinematic forms. (p. 32)It is this kind of meticulous and detailed archival research—drawing on thetradition of the New Film History to offer a more rigorous grounding inhistorical context—that marks out the most significant intervention ofGrindhouse. The weakest scholarship on cult and exploitation cinema hasalways been that which lacks methodological rigour and deploys its keyterminology unthinkingly, so this kind of thorough excavation of the historyof the term ‘grind house’ is to be celebrated, and points towards a moresophisticated model for cult scholarship to adopt. Moreover, not only do Ithink that this current collection makes a substantial intervention within thescholarly debates, but there are many chapters here that I would like to seedeveloped into full monographs in the future. Given that this book is the firstpublication in the Global Exploitation Cinemas series from Bloomsbury, wecan only hope that this marks the beginning of a new wave of rigorous,historically grounded scholarship on cult and exploitation cinema."
Granting OrganisationsThe English Association