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UofL Achievers contribute to 'The Year's Work in Lebowski Studies'

by Kevin Hyde, special to UofL Today last modified Nov 10, 2009 08:08 AM

University of Louisville associate English professor Aaron Jaffe co-edited "The Year's Work in Lebowski Studies," a new book that examines Joel and Ethan Coen's modern cult classic "The Big Lebowski," that has essays by five other UofL professors and achievers.

Aaron Jaffe, associate professor of English, co-wrote the introduction to the book, a manifesto for a 'Lebowski'-inspired cultural studies. He also contributed Chapter 20: "Brunswick = Fluxus," which examines what can be learned from the different decorative styles that run through the film. It hones in on the meaning of wood, which is linked to the retro feel so crucial to the film's look, and the Dude's wooden-headed outlook. How does this association work and how does it combine with other prevalent materials and styles to help explain the system of objects in the movie?

Andrew Rabin, assistant professor of English, wrote Chapter 2: "A Once and Future Dude: 'The Big Lebowski' as Medieval Grail-Quest." The essay discusses the many features of the film that the Coens borrow from medieval grail narratives. In the middle ages, grail narratives were used to explore the question of how one could escape from the corrupt and degraded historical world into a paradise outside of history made possible by Christian salvation. In "Lebowski," drawing on the grail narrative helps the Coens to create characters seeking to escape the corrupt historical world of post-Vietnam, post-Reagan-era America into the more perfect, controlled, escapist world of the bowling alley.

Diane Pecknold, visiting assistant professor in Women's and Gender Studies and Humanities and a coordinator for the College of Arts and Sciences Office of International Programs, wrote Chapter 12: "Holding Out Hope for the Creedence:  Music and the Search for the Real Thing in 'The Big Lebowski'." The essay looks at the ins and outs of the soundtrack (and Maude Lebowski's record collection) to show how the music, like the movie, denies the idea of the "real" but still encourages us to pursue it, ultimately concluding that the 1987 Venice Beach League Playoffs may be the most important recording of the 20th century.

Thomas Byers, director of the Commonwealth Center for the Humanities and Society, wrote Chapter 8: "Found Document: The Stranger's Commentary and a Note on His Method." Half of this strange document consists of an analysis of the film written in the voice of The Stranger, the character played by Sam Elliott. The other half is an academic response to his comments.

Dennis Hall, English professor, and Susan Grove Hall contributed Chapter 14: "LebowskIcons: The Rug, The Iron Lung, The Tiki Bar, and Busby Berkeley." The chapter discusses icons in the movie.

Matthew Biberman, associate professor of English, wrote Chapter 7: "Lebowski and the Ends of Postmodern American Comedy."

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