Classical feminist film theory

Then and (mostly) now

Authored by: Patrice Petro

The Routledge Companion to Cinema and Gender

Print publication date:  November  2016
Online publication date:  November  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138924956
eBook ISBN: 9781315684062
Adobe ISBN: 9781317408055


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In an April 2015 interview, University of Groningen student Daniel O’Neill asked Laura Mulvey about what we might now call “classical” feminist film theory—that is, feminist film theory of the 1970s. Specifically, he asks, what has changed since the publication of “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” in 1975? Mulvey responded by explaining that her now infamous essay was a political intervention and not an academic one. She stated,

One absolutely crucial change is that feminist film theory is now an academic subject to be studied and taught. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” was a political intervention, primarily influenced by the Women’s Liberation Movement and, in my specific case, a Women’s Liberation study group, in which we read Freud and realised the usefulness of psychoanalytic theory for a feminist project. In addition to this feminist context, the essay could be seen as experimental, within the cultural context of the 1970s avant-garde: its writing, its films, and its ideas. 1

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