Brooklyn is Not Expanding: Woody Allen's Comic Universe

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Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press, 1992 - Biography & Autobiography - 164 pages
Brooklyn Is Not Expanding is an examination of Woody Allen's comic universe: his stand-up routines, plays, and essays, as well as his films. Focusing on the comic persona that Allen invented in the late 1960s, Annette Wernblad analyzes his works chronologically, tracing the roots of the Allen persona in the Jewish literary tradition of Sholom Aleichem, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Philip Roth, and in the American comic tradition of Lenny Bruce, Charles Chaplin, and Groucho Marx.
This work follows the considerable development in Woody Allen's films over a twenty-year period from Take the Money and Run! (1969) to Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989). It contains detailed textual readings of Allen's mature and memorable films and discusses his idiosyncratic use of the cinematic medium. In addition, Ms. Wernblad offers contextual analyses, relating Allen's works to various tendencies in contemporary culture, such as the Hollywood genre film, the culture of narcissism, the "Superman Syndrome," the moral implications of the McCarthy era, and "the culture of celebrity."
Brooklyn Is Not Expanding examines the role that Allen played from the very beginning of his career in the general upheaval which occurred in American film and literature in the 1960s and 1970s. It shows how his debut as a film director, like much of his later work, reflects the undermining of the classic film genres so typical of that period. Likewise, many of his films flirt with the often elusive line between fantasy and reality. Allen's portrayals of the constricting role that men are supposed to play in the modern world (what one might call the "Superman Syndrome") are equally revolutionizing and ahead of their time. In addition, Brooklyn Is Not Expanding examines the male/female relationships that are central elements in most of Allen's films, and shows how his characters fit into Lasch's culture of narcissism.
In examining Allen's vast production, Ms. Wernblad focuses on the philosophical concerns that permeate his works. Influenced by the moral implications of the McCarthy era, the persona in Allen's mature works becomes increasingly obsessed with death, decay, and the dissolution of the universe. As a reflection of the moral speculations of the persona, Allen's films become concerned with a traditional dichotomy in Yiddish literature: the heart versus the brain, i.e., the emotional versus the intellectual. The book examines these aspects as well as the implications of Allen's exhilarating juxtaposition of European high culture and American popular culture.
Allen's films of the early 1980s show an interest in "the culture of celebrity," whereas his films in the period from 1986 to 1990, Annette Wernblad argues, show a partial reconciliation with the concerns, preoccupations, and obsessions that have haunted the persona and permeated Allen's entire production.
Brooklyn Is Not Expanding is the most comprehensive analysis of Woody Allen's works to date.

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