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The Power of the Image by Annette Kuhn

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4

The Big Sleep: censorship, film text and sexuality

An approach to reading representations which confines itself to the formal characteristics of images and texts may be extremely productive, but can hardly be regarded as exhaustive. A text is obviously instrumental in producing its own meanings, but meaning nonetheless always exceeds the limits of any one text: readings are always informed by various contexts and intertexts. So, for instance, films of sexual disguise would in effect be unreadable without some familiarity on the audience’s part with cultural meanings attaching to social practices of crossdressing.

The following essay, which focusses on Howard Hawks’s film The Big Sleep, may be read as a recipe for combining textual analysis ...

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