MA Film Research Seminar: Cinema and the Body
Instructor: dr. Maryn Wilkinson
In this MA research seminar, we will explore the body as a focal point of cinema; whether it be as the implied (but absent) observer ‘within’ the camera, as the fetishized object of the gaze on screen, or as the corporeal experience undergone by the viewer in the audience. Each session in this research seminar will take on a specific cluster theme, bringing together specific films/case-studies, theoretical paradigms and texts, in order to examine how film deals with, constructs and connects a range of different bodies; from the female body, the post-colonial body, to the pathological body, the macho body and the child’s body, to the performing, observing and experiencing body. We will look at how key historical junctures presented specific conceptualizations of the body (from the femme fatale to the song-and-dance man, from disturbed, diseased, disabled or mutated bodies, to technologically advanced and adapted bodies, from newly occupied to liberated bodies, and from ‘funny’ bodies, to sexualized bombshells and hard-muscled action heroes). In and through our analyses we will attempt to answer questions such as:
- How have certain film movements and genres absorbed and produced specific ideas about the display of the body on screen?
- How have ideological/political and theoretical shifts influenced the representation of the body?
- How have particular narrative tropes (from scenes of violence, to cross-dressing, the makeover, or the depiction of sex, for instance) played with and realigned our relationship with onscreen bodies?
- How have new innovations in CGI allowed us to rethink what the body is and can be?
- How do we ‘experience’ and relate to bodies on screen, and/or even to the fabric of film itself?
- How and why does our own bodily experience of film matter?
Throughout the research seminar, we will critically engage with a range of different film theoretical approaches (from studies of representation, including feminist film theory and post-colonial theory, to genre and discourse analysis, to ethics and phenomenology) and look at how these approaches have proposed and evaluated connections between the different bodies that cinema continues to position, conjure and implore.
Graded work for the seminar will include two essays (one short analysis of a scene and one final essay) and an individual 30-minute presentation.
Marlene Dietrich in Blonde Venus (1932):
A scene from Freaks (1932):
Technology/special effects in Terminator 2 (1991):
Costume, sexuality, heritage in The Piano (1993):
A hugely offensive scene from Norbit (2007):