Amir Khan: “Michael Jackson’s Ressentiment: Billie Jean and Smooth Criminal in Conversation with Fred Astaire”

We wanted to draw your attention to a newly published essay by Amir Khan (Ph.D. Candidate, Department of English, University of Ottawa), entitled “Michael Jackson’s Ressentiment: Billie Jean and Smooth Criminal in Conversation with Fred Astaire“. The essay appears in a new issue of the journal Popular Music and Society, a special issue devoted to the late Michael Jackson. Khan attended the October 14-16, 2010 conference at Harvard on Cavell and literary studies, and he’s the person who took these photos of the event.

According to Khan, his essay’s reading of Jackson is an extension of Cavell’s original discussion of Fred Astaire (two moments of which we’ve cited, with video clips, here and here).

To access Khan’s essay online, please click here. Here is its abstract:

Little attempt is made at juxtaposing Michael Jackson’s art against that of his cultural predecessors. Reading Billie Jean (1983) and Smooth Criminal (1988) in conversation with Fred Astaire’s popular 1953 musical, The Band Wagon, for example, exposes all sorts of intertwining threads of significance and ressentiment, particularly in terms of race relations and cultural appropriation. Yet my purpose in this paper is not to assign the last word to either Michael Jackson or Fred Astaire, but to analyze what sort of ramifications their dialogue may have for American popular imagination.

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