Laura Mulvey Will Speak at Wellesley College
March 24, 2006
Mass. --One of the most influential feminist film theorists and
critics in the world, Laura Mulvey, will speak at Wellesley College
Wednesday, April 5, at 4:30 pm in Science Center 277. Professor
of film and media studies at Birkbeck College, University of
London, Mulvey will discuss the relationship between new media
technologies and spectatorship in her lecture “Discovering
the Pensive and the Possessive Spectator.” The event is
free and open to the public.
Based on her
recent book Death 24x a Second Stillness and the Moving Image (Reaktion
Books, 2006), Mulvey’s lecture will
examine how modern media technologies, including home DVD players,
have fundamentally altered our relationship to the movies. She
will explain how they give viewers the ability to control both
image and story, so that movies, meant to be seen collectively
and followed in a linear fashion, may be manipulated to contain
unexpected and even unintended pleasures.
discuss how the individual frame, the projected film’s
best-kept secret, can now be revealed by anyone who hits pause,
and how easy access to repetition, slow motion and the freeze-frame
may shift the spectator’s pleasure to a fetishistic rather
than a voyeuristic investment in film.
history at St. Hilda's, Oxford University, she came to prominence
the early 1970s as a film theorist, writing
for periodicals such as Spare Rib and Seven Days. Much of her early
critical work investigated questions of spectatorial identification
and its relationship to the male gaze, and her writings, particularly
the 1975 essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” helped
establish feminist film theory as a legitimate field of study.
A prolific writer, Mulvey has written several major books: Fetishism
and Curiosity, Citizen Kane, Visual and Other Pleasures, and Douglas
Sirk, a collection of essays co-edited with Jon Halliday. She also
has published a vast number of articles in collections, journals
Between 1974 and 1983 Mulvey co-wrote and co-directed with Peter
Wollen six theoretical film projects dealing with the discourse
of feminist theory, semiotics, psychoanalysis and leftist politics.
The first of these, Penthesilea: Queen of the Amazons explored
concerns central to Mulvey's writings: the position of women in
relation to patriarchal myth, symbolic language and male fantasy.
Penthesilea represents an experimental British venture into territory
pioneered by the likes of Jean-Luc Godard. With its counter-cinema
style and relentlessly didactic approach it is a film in five sequences
on the iconography of the woman as a warrior. The most influential
of Mulvey and Wollen's collaborative films, Riddles of the
Sphinx (1977), presented avant-garde film as a space in which female experience
could be expressed. Remarkable formalistic innovation, notably
360-degree pans, informs the film's content, describing the mother's
loss of and search for identity. The result is a challenging, forceful
and intelligent film.
AMY!, a tribute to Amy Johnson, is a reworking of themes previously
covered by Mulvey and Wollen. Far from a conventional biopic, the
aviator is used as a symbolic figure, her journey exemplifying
the transitions between female and male worlds required by women
struggling towards achievement in the public sphere.
Gazing represented a departure from the emphatic formalism
of Mulvey and Wollen's earlier films. This representation of London
during the Thatcher recession was generally well received, despite
criticism for the lack of a feminist underpinning to the film.
Mulvey admitted she had been reluctant to incorporate feminist
polemics fearing they would unbalance the film. Frida Kahlo
and Tina Modotti (1982) and The Bad Sister (1983) followed, revisiting
feminist film issues; New Horizons (1987) was an installation for
36 video monitors commissioned by Public Access, Toronto, for the
series 'The Lunatic of One Idea'. After these films, Mulvey returned
to filmmaking with co-director Mark Lewis on the project Disgraced
Monuments (1994), an examination of the fate of revolutionary monuments
in the Soviet Union after the fall of communism.
The lecture is sponsored by the Committee on Lectures and Cultural
Events, the Writing Program, French, Italian Studies, Art, Cinema
and Media Studies, East Asian Languages and Literatures, German,
Sociology, Women's Studies and Spanish departments. For more information,
contact Flavia Laviosa, Italian Studies, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 781-283-2618.