Anne Cheng

Mar 25, 2019

Second Skin

Josephine Baker and the Modern Surface

Oxford University Press 2017

purchase at bookshop.org On this episode of the New Books Network, Dr. Lee Pierce (she/they)--Asst. Prof. of Rhetoric at SUNY Geneseo--interviews Dr. Anne Cheng (she/hers)--Professor of English and Director of the Program in American Studies at Princeton University--to discuss an inimitable work of critique: Second Skin: Josephine Baker and the Modern Surface (Oxford University Press, 2017). Moving fluidly and with suspense through Baker’s performances, personal journals, museums, architectural designs, and the lyrics of Cole Porter--to name a few--Cheng draws on the oft-studied but little considered Josephine Baker as a figure of articulation for the nuanced contradictions of primitivism, modernism, and theory. Through Baker, Cheng invites us to reconsider the mutual imbrication of object/subject, surface/depth, and exploitation/fascination. Cheng’s careful eye and beautiful command of texture illustrates that dissolving Baker into pure particularity--into pure surface--is the best way to capture her unique agency.

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