Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,”Screen (1975) 16 (3): 6-18.
Alfred Hitchcock, Vertigo (1958)
In the first half of this lecture Christina Hendricks discusses Laura Mulvey’s article, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” She discusses Mulvey’s own later thoughts on this article, compares what Mulvey has to say in it with what the class had read from John Berger in Ways of Seeing, and then goes through a reading of several of the points in the article. In the second half of the lecture, Jason Lieblang discusses Hitchcock’s film Vertigo, reading it in part through Mulvey’s arguments. He begins by talking about Hitchcock’s work more generally, then focuses on the themes of seeing/being seen in several of Hitchcock’s films, including Vertigo. In the last part of the lecture he looks at the film through Mulvey’s arguments about gender and vision, and ends with some questions we might ask about her arguments.
Please see this Mediasite link for the video with the sides attached.
- Compare Mulvey’s ideas regarding the male gaze in cinema with Berger’s assessment and analysis of the visual representation of gender roles in Ways of Seeing.
- Mulvey’s essay distinguishes between two modes of looking for the film spectator. Do either or both of these modes resonate with your own experience as a spectator watching Vertigo? Why or why not?
- Can Mulvey’s ideas about the male gaze and the representation of women be applied to literary texts? Discuss using one literary text we’ve read this year as your case study.
- Can Mulvey’s arguments in “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” be applied to any of the films we’ve discussed in our Arts One group so far (apart from Vertigo), or do any of them not seem to fit what she’s saying? Explain why or why not.
- Mulvey makes no mention of the other main female character in Vertigo, Midge. Does Midge fit into Mulvey’s analysis of mainstream Hollywood cinema?
- Discuss a film from Hollywood’s Classic Age (1930s through 1950s) that you consider exemplary of Mulvey’s charge that films of this period “coded the erotic into the language of the dominant patriarchal order” (8). Support your argument with sequence analyses that discuss both theme and film form.
- Discuss a film from Hollywood’s Classic Age (1930s through 1950s) that you believe subverts what Mulvey identifies as the “cod(ing of) the erotic into the language of the dominant patriarchal order” (8). Support your argument with sequence analyses that discuss both theme and film form.
- Discuss a film that you think transcends what Mulvey calls “outworn or oppressive forms” of the male gaze and/or dares “to break with normal pleasurable expectations in order to conceive a new language of desire” (8). Support your argument with sequence analyses that discuss both theme and film form.