Prof. Anne A. Cheng's Book "Second Skin" Receives Honorable Mention from MSA
Professor Anne A. Cheng's book, Second Skin: Jospehine Baker & The Modern Surface, received Honorable Mention from the 2012 Modernist Studies Association Book Award at their annual conference last week.
Susan Stanford Friedman, President of the Modernist Studies Association had this to say about about Second Skin:
"If one were to judge a book by its cover—and I'm not saying we did—Anne Cheng's Second Skin: Jospehine Baker & The Modern Surface (Oxford UP) would stand out. And not just for its evocative front cover, but its back cover as well. Or the book is impeccably blurbed by such noteable scholars as Brent Edwards, Kobena Mercer, and Kaja Silverman, who collectively suggest that Cheng is the new Fanon with her highly original account of race. With its iconic image of Baker overlaid with the emblemativ skyscrperm that cover is indisputably modernist. And Cheng's prose is as seductive as its cover. Discussing painting, architecture, burlesque, striptease, and film, Cheng demonstrates how common understandings of certain aestheic principles transferred themselves across disparate sites of aesthetic production, from Adolf Loos' architectural focus on surfaces to the broader focus on Josephine Baker's skinitself. In Cheng's analysism the phenonmenon of Baker is modernism, with its 'entwined crises of race, style and subjecthood' (4). The fascination with surfaces and the generalized atmosphere of the formalist aesthetics to which it testifies finds a fertile critical imagination here and expands not only what we know about modernism but how we think about it as well."
About Second Skin:
Through the figure of Josephine Baker, Second Skin tells the story of an unexpected yet enduring intimacy between the invention of a modernist style and the theatricalization of black skin at the turn of the twentieth century. Stepping outside of the platitudes surrounding this iconic figure, Anne A. Cheng argues that Baker's famous nakedness must be understood within larger philosophic and aesthetic debates about, and desire for, 'pure surface' that crystallized at the convergence of modern art, architecture, machinery, and philosophy. Through Cheng's analysis, Baker emerges as a central artist whose work engages with and impacts various modes of modernist display such as film, photography, art, and even the modern house.
About Anne A. Cheng:
Professor Anne Anlin Cheng specializes in race studies and psychoanalytic theory and works in 20th-century American literature, with special focus on Asian American and African American literature. She is the author of The Melancholy of Race: Assimilation, Psychoanalysis, and Hidden Grief, which examines the notion of racial grief at the intersection of culture, history, and law. From Toni Morrison to Maxine Hong Kingston, from Ralph Ellison to David Henry Hwang, from Anna Deavere Smith to Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, The Melancholy of Race studies how writers and artists of color contribute to our understanding of racial injury – not by simply reflecting that fact but by exploring the complex etiology of racism and the education of desire that it instills in both dominant and minority subjects. She is currently working on a new project on the discourse of "shine" in early century philosophy and aesthetics.
Cheng received her B.A. in English and Creative Writing at Princeton, her Masters in English and Creative Writing from Stanford University, and her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from University of California at Berkeley. Prior to coming back to Princeton, She taught a wide range of courses at Harvard University and the University of California, Berkeley, on topics such as literary theory, cultural studies, race and gender studies, psychoanalytic theory, postcolonial theory, film studies, poetry and poetics. She is the founder and organizer of the conversation series Critical Encounters, aimed to encourage dialogue across diverse disciplines on shared topics of social justice.