History films were a highly popular genre in the 1990s, as Hollywood looked back at significant and troubling episodes from World War II, the Cold War era, and the techno-war in the Persian Gulf. As filmmakers attempted to confront and manage intractable elements of the American past, such as the trauma of war and the legacy of racism, Susan Linville argues that a surprising casualty occurred--the erasure of relevant facets of contemporary women's history.
In this book, Linville offers a sustained critique of the history film and its reduction of women to figures of ambivalence or absence. Historicizing and adapting Freud's concept of the uncanny and its relationship to the maternal body as the first home, she offers theoretically sophisticated readings of the films Midnight Clear, Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line, Nixon, Courage Under Fire, Lone Star, and Limbo. She also demonstrates that the uncanny is not only a source of anxiety but also potentially a progressive force for eroding nostalgic ideals of nation and gender. Linville concludes with a close reading of a recent 9/11 documentary, showing how the patterns and motifs of 1990s history films informed it and what that means for our future.