Monstrous Thesis @ MLA

, Malcolm A. Kline, 2 Comments

It’s hard to say what is more astounding in academe: the projects academics get emotionally attached to or the odd disconnect their finished products have with reality.

For example, Daniel T. Anderson of Emmanuel College has made something of a life’s work of studying the 1981 film, “An American Werewolf in London.” In that movie, he found profound metaphors for “Assimilation as Nightmare: An American Werewolf in London and the Jewish American experience.”

At the Modern Language Association’s annual meeting in Chicago this year, during a panel discussion on “Jewish Monsters,” he elaborated on these:

  • “David Kessler, the film’s tragic protagonist, is not only an American but a Jewish American;”
  • “The pub he and his friend stop in is called The Slaughtered Lamb;” and
  • “David’s ‘Wandering Jew’ hiking equipment.”

“In the final scene, David is riddled with bullets,” Anderson noted. “I would say he is a stand-in for Christ.”

Finally, Anderson asserted that “The dream sequence of Nazi werewolves gunning down David’s family shows the danger of assimilation.”

It is hard to find any of this symbolism in tracing the available notes on the production of this film. Instead, we learn from the Internet Movie Data Base,  that the director, “John Landis wrote the screenplay for this film following an incident while shooting Kelly’s Heroes (1970) (while he was a go-fer) in the countryside of Yugoslavia. While driving along a country road with a colleague, Landis encountered a gypsy funeral. The body was being buried in a massively deep grave, feet first, while wrapped in garlic, so as he would not rise from the dead.”


2 Responses

  1. Daniel P. Anderson

    February 1, 2014 2:15 pm

    Thank you for your work in keeping academia on the straight and narrow. I actually do agree with much of your focus on traditions, which should have been apparent when, during this panel, I brought up the name of Lionel Trilling. While I don’t really expect this project to be for everyone, it was intended to explore some of the complications that an ethnic community steeped in traditions experiences when it comes into conflict with modernity.

    By the way, since you’re so interested in “Accuracy in Academia,” my name is Daniel P. Anderson, not David T. Anderson.

  2. Zachary Rogers

    February 1, 2014 11:08 pm

    Have you not read Roland Barthes? Barthes writes, “the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author.” Dr. Anderson offers a fair interpretation of a film, and his interpretation offers insight into the Jewish American experience. John Landis is dead (figuratively), and his film, like any work of art, says more than he may have intended.

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