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Rainbow Lifelong Learning Institute, Boston

Women to Reckon With: Hollywood’s 1940s.

with Linda Dittmar


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This course will take place on Tuesdays at 10:30 AM for five weeks (1/17/23 - 2/14/23).  This course will be on Zoom.

Course Description:

In this course we will explore Hollywood’s representation of women during a decade marked by anxiety. In the background to these films are the Depression,World War II, and an incipient Cold War. In the foreground are women’s changing sense of self within a patriarchy determined to keep them down. The five films we’ll study—all black and white—explore the themes of motherhood, work, money, ambition, and performance. They invite reflection on patriarchy, gender, and women’s position in the public and private spheres, where lesbian possibilities are strongly repressed. We will pay special attention to the cinematic “language” of our films (camera, light, acting, framing, etc.), “reading” them critically, “against the grain” of the patriarchal norms that dominate their narratives.

Course requirements are light: just seeing the films ahead of time, preferably more than once. Optional readings may be provided. Optional writing may be suggested. The course will be conducted as a lecture/discussion. Your participation is strongly encouraged.


Rebecca 1940      Please watch before the first class

Now Voyager 1942

Double Indemnity 1944

Mildred Pierce 1945

Gilda 1946

Course Leader:

Linda Dittmar, Professor Emerita, taught Film and Literature at the University of Massachusetts—Boston and internationally, including pioneering film and literature courses in Women’s Studies. Her teaching and writing focused on modern and contemporary works, including the books From Hanoi to Hollywood; The Vietnam War in American Film, and Multiple Voices in Feminist Film Criticism. Winner of UMB’s Chancellor’s award for excellence in teaching, she is also a longtime member of the magazine Radical Teacher’s editorial board. 

  • Jan 17 - Feb 14th, 2023
    Tue for 5 weeks from 10:30 am - 12:00 pm

Online Class

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