Wager, Jans B. 1958-

views updated

Wager, Jans B. 1958-

PERSONAL:

Born 1958. Education: University of Colorado, Boulder, B.A., 1980; University of California, Davis, M.A., 1989, Ph.D., 1997.

ADDRESSES:

Office—Department of English and Literature, Utah Valley State College, 800 W. University Parkway, Orem, UT 84058. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Taught at the University of California, Davis, 1993-97; Utah Valley State College, Orem, professor of English, 1997—.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Dean's Scholarship Award for Outstanding Faculty Research in the Humanities, 2000, Trustee's Award for Excellence 2002, Wolverine Awards, 2002, Presidential Scholarship, 2004 Educator of the Year, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences Scholarship Award, 2006, all from Utah Valley State College.

WRITINGS:

Dangerous Dames: Women and Representation in the Weimar Street Film and Film Noir, Ohio University Press (Athens, OH), 1999.

Dames in the Driver's Seat: Rereading Film Noir, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 2005.

SIDELIGHTS:

English professor Jans B. Wager's first book, Dangerous Dames: Women and Representation in the Weimar Street Film and Film Noir, is a study from a female perspective of films in which critics usually see a strong male presence. Wager argues that female characters in film noir tend to be very much like the reader, "white, heterosexual, middle-class, and conscious of herself as a woman trying to negotiate her way through a patriarchal society." Rocky Mountain Review contributor Heide Witthöft noted: "Wager also introduces two key categories into which women fall in these films: the femme-fatale—active, intelligent, charming, sexually agressive—and the femme attrapée—passive, intellectually frustrated, dull, sexually submissive."

Wager provides an overview of the Weimer Republic and Weimer film, naming some of the most important films of the period, then expands her view to include the street films that, beginning with The Street in 1923, follow a standard story line that finds a man leaving his home, falling under the influence of a temptress, but ultimately returning to his home. She also provides background for the film noir genre that became popular following World War II, with its emphasis on the independent woman rather than on domesticity. Wager examines three such films: The Maltese Falcon (1941), Gun Crazy (1950), and The Big Heat (1953). She compares these to later films that were created in the film noir tradition, including Devil in a Blue Dress (1995) and The Last Seduction (1993).

Wager followed with Dames in the Driver's Seat: Rereading Film Noir, a continuation of the subject of her first book with the addition of an analysis of gender, race, and class in film noir. The first section of the book is an overview of classic noir, and in the second, she looks at gender in classic noir through such films as The Killers, Out of the Past, and Kiss Me Deadly. Her focus in the third section is on "retronoir" films, including L.A. Confidential, Mulholland Falls, and Fight Club, while in the fourth, her focus is on "neo-noir" films, including Fargo, Twilight, and Jackie Brown. Retro-noirs are set in the 1940s and 1950s, while neo-noirs have contemporary settings but have a classic noir style. Film Criticism contributor Deborah Allison wrote: "Throughout the volume, her careful readings of other critical texts are matched by her penetrating analyses of judiciously selected movies. In many senses, Dames in the Driver's Seat is the ideal textbook. Wager's manner of writing proves extremely readable, presenting ideas that are both stimulating and clearly explained. If her style often entails a mosaic of quotations, it is a purposeful and intricately designed mosaic in which each element plays an integral part without gaps, overlaps, or anything that jars by being out of its proper place."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Film Criticism, winter, 2005, Deborah Allison, review of Dames in the Driver's Seat: Rereading Film Noir, p. 76.

German Politics and Society, fall, 2001, Sara Hall, review of Dangerous Dames: Women and Representation in the Weimar Street Film and Film Noir, p. 94.

German Quarterly, fall, 2000, Sabine Hake, review of Dangerous Dames.

Rocky Mountain Review, fall, 2000, Heide Witthöft, review of Dangerous Dames, pp. 16-19.

ONLINE

Utah Valley State College Web site,http://www.uvsc.edu/ (October 30, 2006), biography.