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Charles BurnettA Cinema of Symbolic Knowledge$
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James Naremore

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780520285521

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520285521.001.0001

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Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property (2003)

Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property (2003)

Chapter:
(p.164) Ten Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property (2003)
Source:
Charles Burnett
Author(s):

James Naremore

Publisher:
University of California Press
DOI:10.1525/california/9780520285521.003.0010

Very little is known about Nat Turner, the leader of the most famous slave revolt in American history. As Burnett’s experimental film shows, however, Turner was, in life, the property of slave owners, and after death, he became the property of various interpreters of his actions. Many whites have viewed him as an insane monster, and many blacks have regarded him as a revolutionary hero. He is the subject of oratory, literature, drama, film, and scores of historical writings. Burnett’s film seizes on these many representations and shows what they reveal about American history and society. It consists of interviews with a wide range of blacks and whites, plus a series of dramatic scenes based on writings about Turner, in which six different actors play him. Burnett has given us a meta-interpretation and the best way of understanding the Turner revolt.

Keywords:   Turner rebellion, slavery, American history, interpretation, The Confessions of Nat Turner, self-reflexivity, meta-film, white versus black opinion, revolution

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