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Richard Dyer

richard dyer, richard dyer the matter of whiteness
Richard Dyer born 1945 is an English academic currently holding a professorship in the Department of Film Studies at King's College London Specializing in cinema particularly Italian cinema, queer theory, and the relationship between entertainment and representations of race, sexuality, and gender, he was previously a faculty member of the Film Studies Department at the University of Warwick for many years and has held a number of visiting professorships in the United Kingdom, the United States, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, and Germany1


  • 1 Career
  • 2 White: Essays on Race and Culture
  • 3 Other Notable Works
  • 4 Public Intellectual Life
  • 5 Awards
  • 6 Selected Bibliography
  • 7 See also
  • 8 References
  • 9 External links


Born in Leeds to a lower-middle class Conservative Party supporting family and raised in the suburbs of London during the 1940s and 1950s, Dyer studied French as well as English, German, and Philosophy at the University of St Andrew's He then went on to earn his doctoral degree in English at the University of Birmingham’s Center for Contemporary Cultural Studies During the 1970s, Dyer authored articles for the Gay Left and then during the 1980s wrote for Marxism Today, the theoretical journal of the "Eurocommunist" or Gramscian-wing of the Communist Party of Great Britain These writings were mostly cultural criticism rather than class politics based, with titles such as In Defence of Disco 1979 and Diana Ross 1982

Before coming to King's College London in 2006, he was a Professor of Film Studies at the University of Warwick and a visiting professor at the following institutions: University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School of Communications in 1985; the Istituto Universitario Orientale in 1987; Stockholm University in 1996, 2006, and 2010; the University of Copenhagen in 2002; New York University in 2003; the University of Bergamo in 2004; Bauhaus-Universitat Weimar in 2009; the University of St Andrews in 2011 Throughout his career, he has taught courses on race and ethnicity, film, Stardom, Hollywood, Italian cinema, Federico Fellini, and representation2 He is also very involved in graduate education, and has supervised dissertations on subjects ranging from the history of gay cinema during the 1970s to experimental animation3 Having already published widely on whiteness, film, and lesbian and gay cultures, Dyer recently published journal articles and book chapters on song in Italian cinema and whiteness in the film, Dirty Dancing4

White: Essays on Race and Cultureedit

Published by Routledge in 1997, White examines the reproduction and preservation of whiteness in visual culture from roughly the 15th century to the late 20th century From biblical images of the crucifixion to lithographs of Little Eva from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin to photographs of the Prince and Princess of Wales during the 1980s, the broad scope of this text allows Dyer to illustrate how whiteness has been and continues to be both invisible and hypervisible, everywhere and nowhere Whiteness as both invisible and hypervisible occurs, Dyer argues, because whiteness is both registered on the individual body through phenotype, behavior, language, performances of class and sexuality, etc and exists beyond the corporeal5 Understanding whiteness as being embodied within yet existing beyond corporeal subjects is accomplished through the lens of Christianity, race or more specifically, notions of racial difference observed through differently appearing bodies, and imperialism Central to these three political projects is what Dyer calls "the sexual reproductive economy of race", which signifies the ways in which whiteness is preserved and also threatened by heterosexuality eg the conception of white offspring versus interracial relations that produce mixed race offspring6 Hence the importance of images of the heterosexual white couple that will presumably preserve whiteness by conceiving white children

One of the most compelling parts of his argument is the intra-racial boundary work among whites Gender and class create a hierarchy among whites, wherein women are read as whiter "purer" than men and those of a higher class status are whiter than the lower classes7 The third chapter, "The Light of the World", is particularly important to this intra-racial boundary work in that it examines the relationship between beauty and whiteness and how white women are visually presented as whiter than their male counterparts through the use of light8 Dyer is in conversation with scholars such as David Roediger author of "The Wages of Whiteness", 1991, Tamsin Wilton author of "Immortal, Invisible: Lesbians and the Moving Image", 1995 and Susan Jeffords author of "Hard Bodies: Hollywood Masculinity in the Reagan Era", 1994; and is therefore contributing to whiteness studies, film studies, and gender/sexuality studies

Other Notable Worksedit

Stars 1979 was Dyer's first full-length book In it he develops the idea that viewers' experience of a film is heavily influenced by the perception of its stars Dyer analyzes critics' writing, magazines, advertising and films to explore the significance of stardom, with particular reference to Marlon Brando, Bette Davis, Marlene Dietrich, Jane Fonda, Greta Garbo, Marilyn Monroe, Robert Redford, Joan Crawford and John Wayne9

Heavenly Bodies: Film Stars and Society 1986 continues Dyer's extensive contribution to star studies Judy Garland, Paul Robeson, and Marilyn Monroe are the subjects of this text, and yet they are not what Dyer is most interested in Instead, Dyer looks closely at the ways in which audiences simultaneously construct and consume a particular star's persona, in the process debunking common stereotypes about Garland, Monroe, and Robeson10

In his 2001 The Culture of Queers, Dyer unpacks the oversimplified term "queer", arguing that it is a sexual identity not merely about specific sexual activities, but defines men who are attracted to other men and who possess other non-sexual attributes like being effeminate or hyper-masculine Analyzing films genres like film noir and queer actors like Rock Hudson, Dyer frames the trajectory of queer identification and culture with two major historical moments: the first use of the term "homosexual" in 1869 and the Stonewall Riots Although well received within the academic community, some scholars have criticized the absence of lesbianism in Dyer's definitions and delineation of queer cultural history11

A more recent text is his 2011 In the Space of a Song: the Uses of Song in Film Understanding film songs as utopian, Dyer analyzes film musicals like Meet Me in St Louis and A Star is Born in order to examine the role of song in film through the lens of race, gender, and sexuality12

Throughout his career he has also been commissioned by the British Film Institute to write film analyses, some of which include Seven 1999 and Brief Encounter 1993 Thus Dyer is recognized as both an academic and film critic

Public Intellectual Lifeedit

Outside of academia, gay critic13 Dyer has been an active and influential figure in the English Gay Liberation Front and regularly contributes to the journal Gay Left For example, his article ‘In Defense of Disco’ in Gay Left 1979, was one of the first to take disco seriously as an expression of the new gay consciousness14 In addition to contributing to this journal, Dyer has also organized the first gay cinema event at the National Film Theatre in 197715 The event was accompanied by the publication of Gays and Film, a collection of essays he edited

Dyer has also appeared in several television documentaries In 1991, he appeared in Alma Cogan: The Girl with the Giggle In Her Voice In 1995 he contributed to the television documentary The Celluloid Closet, a history of depictions of lesbians and gay men in American films, which was first screened in the UK on Channel 4 on 5 September 1996 Five years later when the documentary was released on DVD, unused material was edited together to form a one-hour show entitled Rescued From the Closet


  • Society for Cinema and Media Studies Honorary Life Membership, 2007
  • Honorary Doctorate, University of Turku, 2007
  • Distinguished Adjunct Professor in Film Studies, University College Dublin, 2009
  • James Robert Brudner '83 Memorial Prize, Yale University, 2014-201516

Selected Bibliographyedit

  • Dyer, Richard; McDonald, Paul 1998 1979 Stars 2nd ed London: British Film Institute ISBN 9780851706436 
  • Dyer, Richard 1986 Heavenly bodies: film stars and society New York: St Martin's Press ISBN 9780333295410 
  • Dyer, Richard 1990 Now you see it: studies on lesbian and gay film London New York: Routledge ISBN 9780415035569 
  • Dyer, Richard 2002 1992 Only entertainment 2nd ed New York: Routledge ISBN 9780415254977 
  • Dyer, Richard 1993 Brief encounter London: British Film Institute ISBN 9780851703626 
  • Dyer, Richard 1993 The matter of images: essays on representations London New York: Routledge ISBN 9780415057196 
  • Dyer, Richard 1997 White London New York: Routledge ISBN 9780415095372 
  • Dyer, Richard 1999 Seven London: British Film Institute ISBN 9780851707235 
  • Dyer, Richard 2002 The culture of queers London New York: Routledge ISBN 9780203996393 
  • Dyer, Richard 2007 Pastiche New York: Routledge ISBN 9780415340106 
  • Dyer, Richard 2010 Nino Rota: music, film, and feeling New York: Palgrave Macmillan on behalf of the British Film Institute ISBN 9781844572090 
  • Dyer, Richard 2012 In the space of a song: the uses of song in film Abingdon, Oxon New York: Routledge ISBN 9780203804629 
Journal articles
  • Dyer, Richard Spring 1994 "Idol thoughts: orgasm and self-reflexivity in gay pornography" Critical Quarterly Wiley 36 1: 49–62 doi:101111/j1467-87051994tb01012x 

See alsoedit

  • Gay icon
  • Queer Cinema
  • Queer Theory


  1. ^ "University of St Andrews-Professor Richard Dyer"  Retrieved 10 September 2013
  2. ^ http://wwwkclacuk/artshums/depts/filmstudies/people/acad/dyer/indexaspx
  3. ^ https://kclpurekclacuk/portal/en/persons/richard-dyer%2814c9a789-2270-44cd-87d6-3e56099a0fdd%29/supervisionhtml
  4. ^ https://kclpurekclacuk/portal/en/persons/richard-dyer%2814c9a789-2270-44cd-87d6-3e56099a0fdd%29/publicationshtml
  5. ^ Dyer, Richard W White: Essays on Race and Culture New York: Routledge, 1997 page 45
  6. ^ Dyer, Richard W White: Essays on Race and Culture New York: Routledge, 1997 page 121
  7. ^ Dyer, Richard W White: Essays on Race and Culture New York: Routledge, 1997 page 51
  8. ^ Dyer, Richard W White: Essays on Race and Culture New York: Routledge, 1997 page 122
  9. ^ Cosgrove, Stuart Review of Stars, by Richard Dyer and Genre, by Stephen Neale Journal of American Studies 1521981,312-313 JSTOR 27554019
  10. ^ Hunter, IQ Review of Heavenly Bodies: Film Stars and Society, by Richard Dyer Journal of American Studies, 2221988, 285
  11. ^ Finlay, Sarah-Jane Review of The Culture of Queers, by Richard Dyer Journal of Gender Studies, 1312004, 77-78
  12. ^ Johnston, Nessa Review of In the Space of a Song: the Uses of Song in Film Popular Music 332014,182-184 Accessed 1 June 2014 doi: 101017/S0261143013000731
  13. ^ The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide
  14. ^ Gay Left 1970s issue
  15. ^ Benedict, David "London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival Has Fake Cary, Thai Boxer" Bloomberg News, 29 March 2005 Accessed 1 June 2014 http://wwwbloombergcom/apps/newspid=10000102&sid=aH_iMlG2HB6E
  16. ^ Brudner Prize

External linksedit

  • Richard Dyer at the IKKM, Weimar
  • Richard Dyer on Internet Movie Database
  • The Celluloid Closet on Internet Movie Database
  • Alma Cogan: The Girl with the Giggle In Her Voice on Internet Movie Database
  • Rescued From the Closet on Internet Movie Database
  • Interview Richard Dyer at Birmingham University

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