From text to practice: rereading Laura Mulvey's 'Visual pleasure and narrative cinema' towards a different history of the feminist avant-garde
thesisposted on 13.11.2012 by Mary C. White
In order to distinguish essays and pre-prints from academic theses, we have a separate category. These are often much longer text based documents than a paper.
The thesis proposes that there have been a series of responses in visual practice to Laura Mulvey's article 'Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema' (1975) from 1975 to 2000. As Mulvey's article was and still is an exemplary text its contribution to film and visual theory is well documented, however, this has overshadowed any contribution the article has made to visual practices. As Mulvey, at the time of writing the article, was an avant-garde film maker the thesis examines how the article emerged from a context of visual practice. The first chapter establishes the location of 'Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema', broadly summarising its arguments and the commentaries that proceeded from it, noting that many of these commentaries failed to acknowledge its emergence from visual practices. The next chapter explores the context of Mulvey's film-making practice, its content and location amongst other film makers and groups contemporary with it. Chapter 3 looks at the work of key feminist film makers during the 'visual pleasure' moment that immediately followed the publication of Mulvey's article and re-states their importance. The following chapter broadens the argument and examines two visual practices that were not film-based, photo-text and tape-slide, but which took up Mulvey's ideas strategically to explore language and sexual difference in the 1980s. The final chapter looks at how questions of pleasure became vital for a generation of black, gay and lesbian artists during the 1990s in response to, and even in rejection of, Mulvey's earlier work. My aim is to highlight some key practices, mostly in the UK, exploring their heterogeneous nature through context and location, to show a network of practices where Mulvey's legacy can be seen through shared concerns and approaches. This reconstitutes a history and argues that Mulvey's work is part of a framework, which has a legacy to practice, as well as to theory.
- The Arts, English and Drama