Feminism and Film (Oxford Readings in Feminism) / Feminist Film Theory: A Reader

By Kassabian, Anahid | Women's Studies Quarterly, Spring 2002 | Go to article overview

Feminism and Film (Oxford Readings in Feminism) / Feminist Film Theory: A Reader


Kassabian, Anahid, Women's Studies Quarterly


Choosing a textbook for a Women in Film or a Film and Gender course is never easy. Students are rarely prepared for the high theoretical pitch of much of the literature, and they often don't expect to work hard in a film course to begin with. My approach has always been to warn students that the course is hard work and then to maintain my high expectations. But I have to find a textbook to support this approach, which until recently was a real challenge.

Two new anthologies-Thornham's 1999 Feminist Film Theory: A Reader and Kaplan's 2000 Feminism and Film-offer excellent choices. Prior to 1999, there were only a few viable classroom choices in print: Feminism and Film Theory, edited by Constance Penley (New York: Routledge; and London: BFI, 1988); Issues in Feminist Film Criticism, edited by Patricia Erens (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990), and Multiple Voices in Feminist Film Criticism, edited by Diane Carson, Linda Dittmar, and Janice R. Welsch (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994). Erens and Penley offered collections of what has become the feminist film theoretical canon. Multiple Voices collected a wonderful range of voices, but can be too challenging if students have not read a collection like Erens's or Penley's first. I taught Penley's volume, once, and found that for my purposes, it did not engage psychoanalysis's critics enough, even though my own work is strongly influenced by psychoanalysis. Erens's Issues did noticeably better in that regard, but still didn't nearly suit my needs. I kept looking for some kind of combination, a book that would offer both canonical texts and challenges to them.

The notion of a feminist film theory canon may seem anathema to some, as it does to me in some ways. But as a teacher, I feel an obligation to walk my students through the intellectual history of the topic at hand, and they therefore must read the major debate-generating contributions. To find them collected in one volume makes everyone's life easier. Except that-as we've all learned-there's no one version of a canon, theoretical or otherwise. What that means, in practice, is that any anthology will have strengths and weaknesses, and as an instructor one has to make peace with them.

Enter the two volumes under consideration here. Amazingly, there are now two (!) volumes that I'm happy to teach from. What follows then, is a kind of kid-in-a-candy-shop discussion-all choices are good ones.

Of the two, E. Ann Kaplan's is, not surprisingly, the more "classical." Given the surfeit of essays eligible for inclusion, Kaplan chose as an organizing principle Laura Mulvey's 1975 "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema." In the preface, she says:

Many of the major essays in the field responded in one way or another-including outright rejection-to Mulvey's theoretical positions, so I could produce a book of coherent essays by printing work that debated, argued against, or built out from "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema." (v)

By this logic, she compiled a collection that includes four large sections: "Pioneers and Classics: The Modernist Mode"; "Critiques of Phase I Theories: New Methods"; "Race, Sexuality, and Postmodernism in Feminist Film Theory"; and "Spectatorship, Ethnicity, and Melodrama." Each section begins with introductory notes, of about ten pages, which are enormously useful for scholars and students alike. Not only does she survey the essays she has included but also discusses some that she has not. This is a welcome way of combining the strengths of both textbooks and anthologies. There is also an ample "Further Reading" appendix, divided by section.

The body of theory generated in response to Mulvey's widely read essay revolves around questions of textuality and reception. Is a masculine position built into film, as her article suggests? If so, is it built into all film? Can women only occupy masculine positions in our engagements with films? …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Feminism and Film (Oxford Readings in Feminism) / Feminist Film Theory: A Reader
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.