American Masters Reader: October 2018


Joan Mitchell, 1960-61: ‘Rock Bottom’, painting. Photo courtesy of Jim Kuhn.

Throughout our broadcast season, American Masters tells the stories of cultural giants whose work has had a profound effect on American society. The American Masters team is pleased to share a curated selection of the latest discourse in arts and culture: here are seven articles and essays we enjoyed in October.

Let us know what you’re reading (below) or shoot us an email at!

How New York’s Postwar Female Painters Battled for Recognition Claudia Roth Pierpont

The New Yorker October 8th 2018

Author Claudia Roth Pierpont tells the history of five famous female artists — Grace Hartigan, Helen Frankenthaler, Joan Mitchell, Elaine de Kooning, and Lee Krasner — who tried, unsuccessfully, to be viewed as artistic equals to their male contemporaries in the 1950s. Pierpont’s essay is a reminder of the few gains female artists have made in the past sixty years.

The Nearly Extinct Movie Tradition Filmmakers Should Bring Back Adrienne Bernhard

The Atlantic October 12th 2018

Author Adrienne Bernhard recounts the cinematic history of the musical overture — a musical interlude that plays with black screen before a movie starts — and explains the importance of an overture for setting up a film.

Should Art Be a Battleground for Social Justice? Wesley Morris

The New York Times Magazine October 3rd 2018

While the culture wars of the 1980s and 1990s stemmed from older Americans promulgating Christian values, the culture wars of the present revolve around young people demanding greater inclusivity of marginalized people in the media. The author, Wesley Morris, explores the current culture war through the lens of “cancel culture”: if a person (typically a celebrity) is problematic, that person and everything associated with them is canceled. (The best example of “cancel culture” is The Cosby Show being pulled from syndication after it was revealed that Bill Cosby is a serial rapist.) Morris explores what happens to art and media in a culture preoccupied with social justice.

The Surprising Story of Eartha Kitt in Istanbul Hilal Isler

The Paris Review October 1st 2018

“Uska Dara,” one of Eartha Kitt’s most popular songs, is actually an old Turkish folk song. Author Hilal Isler intertwines the narrative history of Eartha Kitt recording Uska Dara in Turkey with Isler’s own personal history of emigration from Turkey.

Queer & Now & Then: 1980 Michael Koresky

Film Comment October 10th 2018

In this bi-weekly column, author Michael Koresky reflects on moments of queerness in American film history. In “1980,” Koresky explores incidental queerness in Stanley Kubrick films, expanding on a brief moment in The Shining. Koresky’s essay (and recurring column) ask the question: why is mainstream American cinema afraid of queerness?

Translation Without Theory V Joshua Adams

LA Review of Books October 7th 2018

What is the role of a good translator: are they responsible for creating a new literary work using the original source as a general guide, or are translators responsible for directly relaying what the original author said, even if that results in a version that is less elegant than the source work? Author (and translator) V Joshua Adams argues that translators are not artists and should take less liberties in their translations but concedes that the role of translators is constantly up for debate.

The Missing Images of Chinese Immigrants May-Lee Chai

The Paris Review  October 23rd 2018

In the annals of American photographic and filmographic history, Chinese immigrants were (and still are) rarely included in the narrative. Author May-Lee Chai traces the racist history of Chinese erasure in American visual media.