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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

Steven Cohan, SU English professor, publishes new book

"Sound of Musicals" is a scholarly look at movie musical genre

March 9, 2011, by Donna Adamo


The Sound of Musicals” (Palgrave Macmillan for the British Film Institute 2011), a new book edited by Steven Cohan, professor of English in The College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University, was released in February in the United States. The book was previously released in the United Kingdom in December 2010.

Movie musicals remain a flourishing 21st-century form. “The Sound of Musicals” examines the films, stars, issues and traditions of the genre from the 1930s to the present day. Featuring 16 original essays by leading international scholars, this illuminating collection addresses the complex history and global variety of the movie musical, and considers the delight and passionate engagement that musicals continue to inspire in audiences around the world.

The contributors address key issues for understanding the movie musical: questions of genre and generic traditions; questions of history, bringing fresh perspectives to a consideration of Classical Hollywood musicals; and the musical beyond Hollywood, looking at alternatives to the Hollywood model from the “New Hollywood” and American independent cinema to Bollywood and other national musical traditions. Individual chapters consider key musical stars such as Frank Sinatra, Julie Andrews and Barbra Streisand; filmmakers including Robert Altman and Christophe Honoré; and classic musicals such as “South Pacific” (1958) and “Hairspray” (1988). In his introduction to the volume, Cohan addresses the significance and enduring appeal of this multi-faceted genre, and considers its recent renaissance with movies such as the “High School Musical” franchise, and the success of the television series “Glee.”

Cohan’s books include “Telling Stories: A Theoretical Analysis of Narrative” (co-authored with Linda M. Shires, Routledge, 1988, ), “Masked Men: Masculinity and the Movies in the Fifties” (Indiana University Press, 1997), “Incongruous Entertainment: Camp, Cultural Value, and the MGM Musical” (Duke University Press Books, 2005) and “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” (British Film Institute, 2008).