Black Bodies, White Subjects: Modernist Authenticities and Anxieties in the Avant-Garde Film Borderline
I examine the movie Borderline in its attempt to create a language of the body. Borderline was a collaborate project of the Pool group, which included director Kenneth Macpherson, the poet H. D., and her partner Bryher. Both H. D. and Bryher star in the film, along with African American singer and actor Paul Robeson. I read Borderline as a work which parallels modernist literary experiments, for instance the poetry of William Carlos Williams, Gertrude Stein, H. D. and Amy Lowell.1 This experimentalism is related to the problem of authenticity, which modernist authors often associate with the materiality of the body. The movie, as I will show in the following discussion, works with two different, intersecting notions of authenticity. On the one hand, it locates authenticity in the material body, especially the black body of its star Paul Robeson. On the other hand, it emphasizes the materiality of the medium itself.
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