Classical Hollywood and modernity

Gender, style, aesthetics

Authored by: Veronica Pravadelli

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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Classical Hollywood cinema has contributed to the formation and development of Feminist Film Theory (FFT) more than any other filmic form or movement. In the 1970s and the 1980s, feminist scholars dissected the semiotic and psychoanalytic paradigms of Hollywood cinema in order to uncover the “patriarchal and capitalist ways of seeing” women, and to show “the reasons why women occupy the place they do in the world of the film” (Kaplan 1976: 7). In the process, they established FFT as an approach for studying filmic images and texts, as well as the relation between cinema and female spectators. If we wanted to encapsulate in a single concept the aims of FFT, perhaps we could say that its main aspiration was to study the mise-en-scène of female desire and how this in turn triggered for women in the audience a process of identification with the film’s psychic scenarios. In other words, FFT devised a set of paradigms for studying how subjectivity is “constituted in the relation of narrative, meaning, and desire; so that the very work of narration is the engagement of the subject in certain positionalities of meaning and desire” (de Lauretis 1984: 106). But beyond this common scope, feminists engaged with classical cinema in different ways, offering competing interpretations of its representation of women and gender relations.

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