English Professor's book analyzes films of Charlie Chaplin

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
James E. Caron, (808) 956-3066
Professor, Department of English
Posted: Apr 4, 2014

English Professor James Caron
English Professor James Caron
Cover of Scarecrow Press book
Cover of Scarecrow Press book

Charlie Chaplin was not only one of cinema’s most important and influential actors who rose to fame in the silent film era of the early and mid-1900s.  He was also a multi-talented, complex individual who transcended his on-screen persona to excel behind-the-scenes as a writer, director, composer, producer and, finally, studio head.  Now a new book, co-edited by University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa English Professor James E. Caron, features essays that help to analyze Chaplin’s films and shed light on their cultural contexts.

“Refocusing Chaplin: A Screen Icon Through Critical Lenses” was released by Scarecrow Press in late 2013. Along with Caron, it was co-edited by English Professors Lawrence Howe of Roosevelt University in Illinois and Benjamin Click of St. Mary’s College in Maryland.

“Charlie Chaplin created one of the best-known comic figures ever, the iconic Little Tramp, and 100 years after he made his first films for Keystone Studios, his work continues to delight audiences and intrigue scholars," said Caron, a Kaneohe resident.  "Much of what has been written about Chaplin is biographical in nature, so the significance of the essays in ‘Refocusing Chaplin’ is their departure from that approach, instead employing various critical perspectives to understand the depth of Chaplin’s creative genius.”

At UH Mānoa, Caron’s areas of interest include 19th-century American literature, Mark Twain, comic art and literature, and popular culture.  He is the winner of a 2012 College of Languages, Linguistics and Literature Excellence in Teaching Award. Caron earned a BA from Loyola University in Los Angeles, and MA and PhD from the University of Oregon.

According to a December 8, 2013 review by Racine Film Examiner James L. Neibaur for examiner.com, “Refocusing Chaplin” is recommended “for libraries and research centers, especially at the University level, for its intelligent, thorough examination of perhaps the most important figure in cinema’s history.”

Films discussed in the essays include The Gold Rush (1925), City Lights (1931), Modern Times (1936) and The Great Dictator (1940).