Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue
Reading Laura Mulvey and Watching Movies: Narrative Cinema and the Feminist De(Re)construction of Visual Pleasure
The objectives of this course are to undertake a thorough historical, theoretical and critical reading of one of the founding texts of contemporary feminist film theory, Laura Mulvey's "Visual Pleasure and the Narrative Cinema", first published in Screen vol. 16 no. 4 in 1975. It established the terms for a feminist analysis of cinema as an apparatus of fantasy serving a sexually inbalanced world where men enjoy the power of the gaze and woman is fashioned to connote to-be-looked-at-ness. How relevant is this theory today? Did it make sense of Hollywood cinema in its heyday? What kind of films can be made in the light of this analysis? This text will then be used to frame an analysis of Hollywood movies (1930s-70s) and the development of a feminist counter cinema (1970s-90s). Students will learn both the theories and methods of film analysis which were foundational to the revision of film studies by Screen magazine in the 1970s.
The course aims to read the essay and watch the kind of films to which it refers in order to understand the argument, to assess its place in film theory and as a contribution to film history. The films screened will include classic cinema, feminist counter cinema and some contemporary movies made by directors that went to film school and studied Laura Mulvey's text. During this module we will: read and understand the main debates in film theory around sexual difference, the gaze, and fetishism; place Laura Mulvey's key text in the context of its original production (Screen magazine, film theory, psychoanalysis, feminism); trace the subsequent debate and the revisions to her theory (Mulvey's later writings, Doane, Copjec, Silverman); use the text to develop skills in analysing a range of classic narrative films mentioned by or relating to Laura Mulvey's analysis (Morocco, Vertigo, Rebecca, Marnie, The Birds, The Big Sleep, River of No Return, Dance Girl Dance, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes; trace the legacy of Laura Mulvey's essay in the making of feminist counter cinema from 1967-1995 (Riddles of the Sphinx, The Gold-diggers, Jeanne Dielmann, Daughters of Dust). Graduate students will be expected to undertake research at BFI and other archives and make presentations in the later part of the course on selected films and questions. A considerable level of theoretical material in semiotics and psychoanalysis will be an essential part of the contemporary reading of this course.
Form of teaching
Seminars: 1 x 2 hour per week and one screening of 4 hours per week.
Form of assessment
1 x essay of 6,000 words maximum, including all bibliographies, footnotes and appendices, to be submitted by the date given in the Department's Postgraduate Handbook.
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