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Laura Mulvey presents feminist film theory today at Notre Dame

Maija Gustin | Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Today is your chance to see a true film icon as she lectures in her area of expertise. Laura Mulvey, author of the seminal feminist essay, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” will visit Notre Dame to give a talk entitled, “Hitchcock’s Blondes, Feminism and Psychoanalytic Film Theory.”

When Mulvey published “Visual Pleasure” in 1975, she changed the face of both film scholarship and the medium itself. Her work attacked the imposing patriarchy of film production at the time. This essay began a new branch of film scholarship that took a feminist perspective. It is widely read in most film theory classes today, including those taught at Notre Dame. Mulvey pioneered the theory of the “male gaze” in this essay, focusing intently on Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window,” which could likely be a point of discussion in tonight’s talk.

Mulvey’s most recent book is “Death Twenty-four Times a Second: Stillness and the Moving Image,” published in 2006. It studies the ways new media technologies affect the experiences of watching and understanding films. The book ultimately analyzes how new media and technology can shape an understanding of film history in general.

Mulvey is also a noted filmmaker, particularly known for “Riddles of the Sphinx” (1977), often considered her most influential film. The film utilizes psychoanalysis to study the role of women in society.

Mulvey worked at the British Film Institute for many years before taking up her current post as a professor of film and media studies at Birkbeck College at the University of London.

The lecture this evening will focus on Hitchcock’s iconic blondes and bridge Freudian psychoanalysis to study these important figures in the director’s films. Most of his films cast blonde actresses in the lead female role, and they have become a popular topic of critical discussion and writing concerning his work.

Mulvey will specifically argue the way Hitchcock incorporates blonde actresses and characters into his films simultaneously analyzes and exploits the idea of woman as spectacle.

For film scholars, psychologists and movie fans alike, Mulvey’s talk is sure to be a highlight of Notre Dame’s 2012 lecture season. She has a long history studying film — particularly Hitchcock — from unique perspectives, challenging popular assumptions and changing the way audiences and scholars view films.

She is a true pioneer in the field of film and media study and will surely have new insights to add to popular conceptions of Hitchcock and his blonde stars tonight.