Desire - Narrative Cinema, Mulvey.docx

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Western University
Women's Studies
Women's Studies 2283F/G
Andrea Allen

VISUAL PLEASURE AND NARRATIVE CINEMA – MULVEY  It takes as its starting point the way film reflects, reveals and even plays on the straight, socially established interpretation of sexual difference which controls images, erotic ways of looking and spectacle  Psychoanalytic theory is thus appropriated here as a political weapon, demonstrating the way the unconscious of patriarchal society has structured film form  The paradox of phallocentrism in all its manifestations is that it depends on the image of the castrated women to give order and meaning to its word. Its her lack the produces the phallus as a symbolic presence  To summarize briefly, the function of woman in forming the patriarchal unconscious is twofold: she firstly symbolizes the castration threat by her real lack of a penis and secondly thereby raises her child into the symbolic  Woman’s desire is subjugated to her image as bearer of the bleeding wound; she can exist only in relation to castration and cannot transcend it  The seeing of the female in fact and her relationship to the symbolic, the sexually mature woman as a non-mother, maternity outside the signification of the phallus, the vagina  Technological advances have changed the economic conditions of cinematic production, which can now be artisanal as well as capitalist  At first glance, the cinema would seem to be remote from the undercover world of the surreptitious observation of an unknowing and unwilling victim  The extreme contrast between the darkness in the auditorium and the brilliance of the shifting patterns of light and shade on the screen helps to promote the illusion of voyeuristic separation  The cinema satisfies a primordial wish for pleasurable looking, but it also goes further, developing scopophilia in its narcissistic aspect  Recognition is thus overlaid with misrecognition: the image recognized is conceived as the reflected body of the self, but its misrecognition as superior projects this body outside itself as an ideal ego, the alienated subject which re-introjected as an ego ideal, prepares the way for identification with others in the future. This mirror moment predates language for the child  The magic of the Hollywood style at its best arose, not exclusively, but in one important aspect form its skilled and satisfying manipulation of visual pleasure. Mainstream film coded the erotic into the language of the dominant patriarchal order  The satisfaction and reinforcement of the ego that represents the high point of the film history hitherto must be attacked  The cinema offers a number of possible pleasures. One is scopophilia  Freud isolated scopophilia as one of the component instincts of sexuality which exist as drives quite independently of the erotogenic zones – subjecting them to a controlling and curious gaze  Freud, developed his theory of scopophilia further, attaching it initially to pre-genital auto- eroticism, after which, by analogy, the pleasure of the look is transferred to others  Mainstream film neatly combins spectacle and narrative  Traditionally the woman displayed has functioned on two levels: as erotic object for the characters within the screen story and as erotic object for the spectator within the auditorium, with a shifting tension between the looks on either side of the screen  A woman performs within the narrative; the gaze of the spectator and that of the male characters in the film are neatly combined without breaking narrative verisimilitude  An active/passive heterosexual division of labour has similarly controlled narrative structure  The male figure cannot bear the burden of sexual objectification, man is reluctant to gaze at his exhibitionist like  The cinema has structures of fascination strong enough to allow temporary loss of ego while simultaneously reinforcing it  Freud the tension between instinctual drives and self-preservation polarises in terms of pleasure  In reality th
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