Conference Abstracts

Panel 1: Childhood, Education, Heroism

Children, Childhood and Autobiography in the Work of Woody Allen

Martin Hall (York St. John University)

In Annie Hall (1977) Allen’s character, Alvy Singer, memorably observes that, “those who can’t do, teach. Those who can’t teach, teach gym. And those who couldn’t do anything, I think, were assigned to our school”. Childhood is something which occurs sporadically within the films of Woody Allen, notably in Radio Days (1987) and rather poignantly and powerfully here in Annie Hall. On the topic of children in his films, Allen has suggested that, ‘I don’t dwell on them. They are there […] But they don’t advance the story’ (Allen quoted in Bjorkman, 1995: 162). Whist Alvy Singer tells his audience that he has “a certain difficulty, some trouble between reality and fantasy”, one can read of his treatment of childhood as embodying ‘both notions of futurity and a “pure” past, the basis for much of adult nostalgia for a “lost” childhood’ (Olson, 2014: 5). This paper will analyse the presence and purpose of children within Allen’s work starting with Annie Hall and looking elsewhere within his filmography.

Bio: Dr Hall is a lecturer in Film studies at York St. John University. His research focusses on the areas of European and British art cinemas, comedy and the American independent cinema. Recent publications have focussed on a book chapter on Woody Allen and an article concerning the films of Roman Polanski.


Sentimental Education: Nostalgia and Regret in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall

Matthew Mitton (University of Hull)

 In the opening minutes of Annie Hall, a wistful Alvey Singer reminisces about his formative state education: “I remember the staff at our public school. You know, we had a saying that those who can’t do, teach. And those that can’t teach, teach gym. And of course those who couldn’t do anything, I think, were assigned to our school.” It is an excoriating view of an education system which is presented as thwarting the individual’s free will and erecting boundaries to desire. Indeed, even the characters who seemingly fare better at the hands of the education system are depicted as bored and frigid intellectuals. And yet, concurrently, the film posits the existence of a parallel sentimental education of lived experience: free, fluid and outside of the boundaries of any cold and facile intellectual orthodoxy. Moreover, it is through pleasure and pain, love and loss in the pursuit of the ever-elusive whole that the twin concepts of nostalgia and regret enact an education of the finer senses. This paper will aim to explore nostalgia and regret in Annie Hall as modes of self-education and growth, seeking to consider the film in the contextual light of Woody Allen’s subsequent work.

Bio: Dr. Matthew Mitton is an Honorary Research Associate in the Department of English at the University of Hull and currently teaches in secondary education. He has published articles on the subject of British and American Decadence and Modernist poetics, with a particular focus upon the interplay of aestheticism and desire.


Woody Allen and the Hero Narrative

Lewis Kellett (York St. John University)

This paper will explore the representation of the hero in the films of Woody Allen. One can observe that Allen’s characters carry the archetype of the Schlemiel. In a journal article Edith-Hilde Kaiter states that “The schlemiel is a comic anti-hero whose misfortune is his character. Allen uses this figure to reveal rather than repress his character’s anxieties and feelings of inadequacy and dependence.” However, despite the heroic nature of Allen’s iconic characters, one may argue that they all fall under Joseph Campbell’s theory of the monomyth. In The Power of Myth Campbell argues that a character ‘takes off on a series of adventures beyond the ordinary, either to recover what has been lost or to discover some life-giving elixir’ (2001: 123). By looking at the narrative of Annie Hall (1977) one can observe that Allen’s character, Alvy Singer, takes all the steps featured in the heroic cycle outlined by Campbell. Furthermore, Sleeper (1973) and Scoop (2006) among others will be explored in relation to Campbell’s narrative theory to challenge the dominant reading of said films.

Bio: Lewis Kellett is a postgraduate student at York St. John University. He is currently studying MA by Research exploring the role of nostalgia in British social realism, with focus on Shane Meadows. In his spare time, he writes for The Reelist, a film website he has cofounded.


Panel 2: Fonts, Dubbing, and Fake Takes

“Not a Morose Type”: The Windsor Font in Annie Hall

J.T. Welsch (University of York)

“The credits,” writes Frederic Jameson in “Postmodernism and Consumer Society” (1983), “always our first cue”. This paper will consider the opening credits of Woody Allen’s Annie Hall, the first of his films to make use of the now-signature Windsor white-on-black font. The font itself was designed by Eleisha Pechey and first produced by Sheffield’s Stephenson Blake foundry in 1905. By the time Allen adopted it in 1977, variations of Windsor had been used prominently in advertising and American television, including the opening credits of the hit sitcom All in the Family and game show The Price is Right, which were both running at the time. Taking into account Annie Hall‘s own self-consciousness about consumer culture and the relationship between film and TV, this paper will combine a material history of the Windsor font with a close reading of those nine title cards comprising the film’s stark, silent opening—which also included for the first time Allen’s longtime director of photography Gordon Willis, whose earlier credit sequences for The Godfather (1972) and All the President’s Men (1976) bear unexpected similarities.

 Bio: Dr JT Welsch is Lecturer in English and Creative Industries at the University of York. His published criticism includes work on 20th and 21st-century American poetry. He has also published six chapbook collections of poetry, and had short scripts produced for stage and screen.


“People, Throw Me To the Squirrels”: The Cross-Cultural Impact of Annie Hall’s Hungarian Dubbed Version

Julia Havas and Anna Martonfi University of East Anglia)

This paper seeks to explore how and why the Hungarian dubbed version of Woody Allen’s Annie Hall has reached cult status among Hungarian audiences. It takes into account both the socio-historical circumstances of translating an American cultural product in the late 1970s behind the Iron Curtain; as well as the high cultural status that Hungarian dubbing culture has traditionally enjoyed due to its local specificities (for instance the involvement of revered theatre and film actors and the treatment of the practice of script translations to the standards of literary translations). The paper juxtaposes excerpts of the original footage with its Hungarian counterpart to reveal some of the–accidental or deliberate–mistranslations that, in turn, became cultural products in their own right. It draws on the original source text, the dubbed version, on a subsequent translation published in book form in Hungary, as well as on interviews with the creators of the dubbed version. The aim is to interrogate the cultural implications of cross-cultural comedy through looking at Annie Hall’s Hungarian version, and to establish an understanding of the mechanisms and possible reasons of the ways in which dubbed audio-visual texts create their own cultural following and impact.

Bio: Julia and Anna are both postgraduate researchers at the University of East Anglia. Among Julia’s research interests are issues of cultural value and gender in popular media, genre and narrative theory, and popular representations of feminism. Anna’s research interests include examining cross-cultural comedy, Hungarian comedies of the inter-war era, and Jewish comedy.


Panel 3: Politics/Race/Sexuality

Annie Hall and the Trouble with Whiteness

Annemarie Kane (Open University)

It will be argued that in Annie Hall, Allen deploys and subverts generic conventions of romantic comedy in the service of a sustained critique of hegemonic whiteness, evident across his films of that period. Annie Hall pursues a critical reflection on the neo-conservative shift in Jewish-American intellectual and political culture, in particular elective assimilationist narratives, exemplified in the work of Norman Podhoretz, for example. In Annie Hall, Allen develops a complex critique of the relation of Jewishness to whiteness, begun in Play It Again Sam and continued in Manhattan. Allen’s critique involves the archetypes of the Jewish schlemiel and the white shiksa to make Jewishness and whiteness visible for mainstream generic consumption. Exposing the whiteness of the genre by sabotaging it is one of the ways in which Allen resists an easy slippage from Jewish marginality to privilege, and maintains a critical stance towards privileging any identity. Allen’s representation of the Hall family’s whiteness as both empty and oppressive constructs whiteness as the problematic identity. However, while Allen is at pains to reveal both the power and absurdity of whiteness, there remain in Annie Hall, troubling traces of ethnic hierarchy and racial binarisms.

Bio: I completed my PhD thesis, “White Atlantics: The imagination of transatlantic whiteness in film” at the University of Winchester in 2011, supervised by professor Jude Davies. I am currently working on shaping the thesis into a book.


Annie Hall: A Post-Zionist Critique

Peter Lederer (Queen’s University Belfast)

By 1977, Israel had been involved in no fewer than four armed conflicts (the Six-Day War [1967], the War of Attrition [1967-1970], the Yom Kippur War [1973], and the Palestinian Insurgency in South Lebanon [1971-82]); bi-national advocate Jimmy Carter was President of the United States. During this time, Jewish humor addressed Jewishness in serious ways as Woody Allen’s films evolved from the “burlesque to psychocomedy” (Brook and Grinberg xiv), to comedy in dialogue with a more diverse, complicated Jewishness. What makes Annie Hall (1977) important is that it is arguably Allen’s first “Jewish” film. Despite recognizing the importance of the Holocaust to the work, it is important to note how Allen’s humor emphasizes a unique post-Zionist perspective, establishing a very real understanding of modern Jewish identity extending beyond the Shoah. The idea of a central point of definition for a religion and the identity of a people must necessarily be challenged with any attempt to understand contemporary Jewish humor. Ultimately, Allen challenges Jewishness as a monolithic concept, contested through schlemiel anti-hero Alvy Singer. He does not merely defend Jewishness against anti-Semitism while projecting a Semitic stereotype; he establishes a postmodern, post-Zionist humor that critiques Jewishness.

Bio: Peter Lederer is a PhD student in the School of English at Queen’s University Belfast, where he is researching Jewish stereotypes in New Hollywood. He is currently working on a chapter for a volume on Jewish Studies, which is set to be published by De Gruyter in 2018.


Breaking up with Woody Allen: Influence, Memory and Nostalgia in Annie Hall and Frances Ha

Jessica Hannington (University of Sheffield

While Allen’s films continue to influence contemporary American filmmakers, the filmmaker’s biographical scandals and his films’ dubious ‘feminism’ and lack of racial diversity complicate these relationships of influence. In light of this, Baumbach’s films, which clearly draw on Allen’s work, are caught in a position of nostalgic remembering and cautious mediation. This paper will focus on Baumbach’s film, Frances Ha (dir. Noah Baumbach, 2014), and the way in which Allen’s influence is mediated through the avoidance of the straightforward heteronormative romance storyline that Allen favours, but instead focuses on a distinctly less conventional platonic love story (and breakup) of two women. The influence of Greta Gerwig will be explored as a destabilising force that both draws connections to Allen’s muse, Diane Keaton, while showing the film’s deviation from Annie Hall. I will draw on Freud’s representations of memory and nostalgia to explore how contemporary filmmakers like Baumbach and Gerwig remember Allen’s work, while simultaneously forgetting elements of Allen’s oeuvre that are uncomfortable, most notably the contentious ‘feminism’ that underpins much of his work.

Bio: Jessica Hannington is a second year PhD student in English Literature at the University of Sheffield. Her thesis investigates the influence of Woody Allen on contemporary film. Other research interests include independent and New Hollywood cinema. She has presented her research at several conferences.


Panel 4: Stardom and the Female Voice

Diane Keaton: Stardom, Sexuality and Agency in Annie Hall and Looking for Mr Goodbar

Daniel Sheppard (University of Lincoln)

1977 was a crucial year for Diane Keaton. Annie Hall was released in US theatres in April, followed by Looking for Mr Goodbar in October. The former received critical acclamation; the latter had mixed responses, making it difficult to assimilate the film even into the radically charged sensibilities of 1970s Hollywood. Feminist scholars have since problematized these films, arguing that despite their appropriation of feminist politics, they remain a steadfast product of masculine bias. Though Annie Hall is heavily mediated by writer/director and co-star Woody Allen, this paper explores how his film also elicits and evokes empathy for Annie. This allows audiences to negotiate the film accordingly, allowing for a reading from Annie’s perspective, and thus enabling a positive feminist trajectory. This reading becomes crucial when applied to Keaton’s star image, encoding her characters in other films with feminist values, especially Theresa in Goodbar. Though Theresa is defined through sexual independence, she is murdered at the hands of a closeted homosexual in the film’s nihilistic conclusion, which critics have read as a symptom of the film’s inherent misogyny and homophobia. Considering the aggregate effect of Keaton’s star presence in both films, this paper argues for her multifarious and, often, contradictory function in relation to the cinematic conventions that hetero-patriarchy imposes.

Bio: Daniel Sheppard studies BA (Hons) Film and Television at the University of Lincoln, UK. He is currently preparing for postgraduate study in September 2017, and is the founder and former editor of Eyes on Screen: the Lincoln School of Film and Media’s student-run film and television blog.


“La di da”: Vocal Performance and the ‘70s Screwball Heroine in Annie Hall

Claire Mortimer (University of East Anglia)

Diane Keaton’s performance as Annie Hall was not universally praised, with one critic evoking it as “a dithering, blithering, neurotic coming apart at the seams”, decrying the lack of “vocal talent” evident in her singing. Nevertheless many reviewers felt that Keaton had emerged from Woody Allen’s shadow in the role, much as her character finds her voice in her singing career. This paper is concerned with Annie’s voice, both in terms of her creative journey in forging a career as a singer and her personal journey in articulating her relationship needs to herself, and to Alvy. Diane Keaton’s vocal performance articulates a new femininity of the seventies, marked by sexual liberation and a spirit of independence and equality, embodied in the emerging cultural phenomenon of the urban single woman. Annie Hall has been hailed as bearing the imprint of the screwball genre celebrated for its fast-talking and feisty heroines, animated by the spirit of the new womanhood of 1930s America. Nevertheless Keaton’s vocal performance is marked by hesitancy and whimsicality as she forges her identity.  Her dialogue and intonation is an echo chamber for the phrasing and idiosyncrasies of the significant influences in her life, most notably her grandmother and Alvy.

 Bio: Claire Mortimer is a PhD student in the School of Film, Television and Media at the University of East Anglia; publications include Romantic Comedy (Routledge) and Doing Film Studies (Routledge), as well as articles and chapters on female stardom and film comedy.


Celine as Annie: Richard Linklater’s Before… Trilogy in relation to Annie Hall

Jonathan Ellis (University of Sheffield

According to Richard Linklater, the premise behind Before Sunrise (1995), the first film in what has come to be known as the Before trilogy (the other films are Before Sunset and Before Midnight), was a precarious one: “Can a film with two people just talking be a movie?” In this paper, I want to think about the influence of Annie Hall (“two people just talking”) on the films Linklater made in the 90s and 00, focusing specifically on the character of Celine played by Julie Delpy and her relationship to Annie Hall played by Diane Keaton. In the first film, Celine is dressed a lot like Annie. The self-conscious kiss between Jesse and Celine is reminiscent of Alvy and Annie’s first kiss too. There are other similarities as well, but interestingly these don’t become apparent until the second and third films in the trilogy where we learn that Celine, like Annie, is a singer, and that Jesse, like Alvy, is a writer. I see the Before trilogy as a series of films that are in love with and at the same time sceptical of Allen’s language of romantic cinema.

Bio: Jonathan Ellis is Reader in American Literature at Sheffield University. He is the author of Art and Memory in the Work of Elizabeth Bishop (2006), co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to Elizabeth Bishop (2014), and editor of Letter Writing Among Poets: From William Wordsworth to Elizabeth Bishop (2015). He also publishes on contemporary cinema.


Panel 5: Collaboration/Cinemagoing/Sport

“The Not-So-Silent Partner”: Marshall Brickman and Collaborative Writing in Annie Hall

Christopher Olewicz (Sheffield University)

So potent is the association of Annie Hall with Woody Allen, that it is often forgotten that its script was the result of a collaboration with Marshall Brickman, a musician turned comedy writer from Flatbush, Brooklyn that also yielded Sleeper, Manhattan Murder Mystery, and Manhattan. Conceived during long walks through Central Park, over discussions of the psyche of the “articulate, educated, self-aware, analyzed, little bit nervous, little bit guilty” intellectuals that lived on the Upper East and West Sides of Manhattan, it is true to say that without Brickman, there would most probably be no Annie Hall as we know it. The archetypal Woody Allen movie, Annie Hall defined for a generation the Jewish New Yorker as a short pale male with neurotic habits, imbued with a wisecracking, exasperating urbane gloominess. It also defined the Woody Allen movie formula—a neurotic, male lead, a pedantic gentleman, and an intellectually-alluring female counterpart. This paper will look at this genre- and culturally-defining collaboration, by analysing the influences on Brickman that eventually resulted in the script of Annie Hall: from his upbringing as a “red diaper baby” in Cold War, Jewish intellectual household, to his time at university writing subversive comedy scripts, and his time in California as a writer for Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show, and The Dick Cavett Show. My research will draw from a variety of sources, including scripts held at the University of Wisconsin and archival interviews, and will also speak more broadly about the reactive writing strategy from which Brickman’s and Allen’s successful collaboration emerged.

Bio: Christopher Olewicz is a PhD candidate of American History at the University of Sheffield, currently working on his thesis, the first extended study of the 1960s radical New Left journal, Studies on the Left and its extended milieu. More broadly, he is interested in analysing contemporary and historical critiques of American radicalism and socialism.


“You wanna go to another movie?”: Cinemagoing in Annie Hall

Carl Sweeney (University of Wolverhampton)

In Woody Allen’s work, characters are frequently depicted as being cine-literate, and going to see a film is often presented as an experience that can be transformative. Annie Hall (1977) is a key text in this regard. The eponymous character (Diane Keaton) and Alvy Singer (Allen) view The Sorrow and the Pity (Ophüls, 1969) together, more than once, and this shared event takes on a surprising emotional resonance by the film’s end. This anticipates other meaningful cinema experiences in Allen’s work, in films such as Hannah and Her Sisters (1986). Furthermore, Annie Hall foregrounds other ritual aspects of the journey through a cinema building, such as buying a ticket and waiting for admittance, and uses these scenes to introduce an array of pertinent socio-cultural references. This prefigures further notable representations of movie theatres in Allen’s work, in films including Stardust Memories (1980) and The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985). Utilising Michel Foucault’s concept of heterotopic spaces, and taking into account Gérard Genette’s subtypes of transtextuality, this paper considers the ways in which Allen’s work depicts cinema buildings and film viewing, focusing on Annie Hall.

 Bio: Carl Sweeney is studying an MA in Film Studies at the University of Wolverhampton. His research interests include the PostWestern subgenre, the star persona of Robert De Niro, and the portrayal of cinemagoing in fictional films.


The Symbolic Significance of Sports in Annie Hall

Peter Dahlén (University of Bergen, Norway)

Sport is one of the things Woody Allen like most of all besides film and early jazz. In interviews and biographies, we are told that he wrapped films early in the day so I could get home in time to see a Knicks game on television, that he was always “a good swimmer” and “a perfectly good schoolyard athlete”. On TV, he watched “sports and films and news”. Against this background, it is no coincidence that various sports activities often appear in his films. However, this is not aimless or random. There is in fact a pattern Allen’s use of sport in his films, especially in the depiction of class-related conflicts and communities. The purpose of this paper is to show how this is reflected in Annie Hall, against the background how sports is used in his previous films.

 Bio: Peter Dahlén is Professor in the Department of Information Science and Media Studies at the University of Bergen, Norway. His main research interests are media, sport, film and other kinds of popular culture in a historical perspective, in particular seen as expressions of culturally and religiously significant myths and narratives. He has published several articles on sport and media, as well as the university textbook Sport och medier (IJ-forlaget 2008).