Cinema of exposure : female suffering and spectatorship ethics
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This thesis explores the intersection of phenomenological, bio-political and ethical facets of spectatorship in relation to female suffering and gendered violence in contemporary film produced in Europe (mainly drawing on examples from France) and the United States. I argue that the visceral and affective cinematic embodiment of female pain plays a vital role in determining the political and ethical relationships of spectators to the images onscreen. Drawing on phenomenological theory, feminist ontology and ethics (primarily the work of Hélène Cixous), as well as the ethical philosophies of Gilles Deleuze and Jean-Luc Nancy, I establish the bio-political and ethical positions and responsibilities of spectators who encounter female suffering in film. In doing so, I highlight the ways in which adopting a phenomenological approach to theorizing and practicing spectatorial perception can open up new areas of ethical engagement with (and fields of vision within) controversial modes of filmmaking such as European New Extremism and body horror. I analyze how suffering female bodies embody contemporary corporeal, socio-political and ethical problematics in what I define as the “cinema of exposure.” I argue that through processes of psychosomatic disturbance, films within the cinema of exposure encourage spectators to employ a haptic, corporeally situated vision when watching women experience pain and trauma onscreen. I explore how encounters with these suffering female bodies impact spectators as political and ethical subjects, contributing a crucial bio-political dimension to existing work on spectatorial engagement with cinematic affect. The goal of this thesis is to highlight the continued importance of feminist critiques of gendered and sexualized violence in film by attending to the emotional, physical, political and ethical resonances of mediated female suffering. This thesis contributes productively to those areas of film and media studies, women’s studies and feminist philosophy that explore the construction of female subjectivity within contemporary culture.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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