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THE WIRE: A HISTORICAL TAKE

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Faculty gather from all fields to attend a day-long symposium on crime and cinema led by specialists in the two fields.

On Friday, March 2, the Graduate Field Committee in Film Studies, the Center for Literary and Comparative Studies, the Department of French and Italian, the School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, the College of Arts and Humanities, and the Miller Center for Historical Studies presented the Symposium on Crime and Cinema in Tawes Hall.
 

Guests were treated to fascinating lectures by professionals who have dedicated their research and studies to the interpretation of crime and its role in cinema, both old and modern.
 
The symposium centered on the popular television show "The Wire", set in the hard streets of Baltimore. Participants screened an episode of the show, as well as an episode of "Les Vampires" filmed in France in 1915, to draw comparisons and contrasts.   Afternoon sessions followed with further discussion and interpretation of the emergence of crime as a central factor of cinematic endeavors.
 
Andrea Goulet, associate professor of Romance Languages at the University of Pennsylvania, presented a lecture titled “Savage in the City: Spatializing Reform in Eugène Sue's Les Mystères de Paris (and The Wire),” in which she compared older French literature to the contemporary tales of the characters in "The Wire".
 
“Before there was Baltimore, there was Paris,” explained Goulet. “Criminal instincts are needed to survive in the streets of Baltimore, just as they were in 19th century Paris.”
 
In her discourse, Goulet compares Dennis “Cutty” Wise, a reformed criminal from "The Wire", to Le Chourineur, also a reformed criminal born in Eugene Sue’s Les Mystères de Paris. Both characters carry their ex-convict status as murderers with them. Cutty is nicknamed for his stint in the Maryland State Penitentiary of Jessup, which is known as “The Cut.” Le Chourineur translated literally means felon, criminal, or manslaughterer. The characters, despite their severe differences of era and setting, both face the difficulty of reacclimatizing themselves into a society that condemns felons and criminals. Cutty proceeds to open up a boxing gym for the youth of Baltimore as an outlet to channel violence positively. Le Chourineur is essentially saved from himself by the protagonist Rodolphe, who is convinced the man can still express good humanistic qualities.
 
The day concluded with open discussion and a reception in Tawes Hall.

 

Date of Publication: 
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
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