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Feminine Becomings: Theories of the Girl and the Moving Image

Mitchell, Elspeth Rose (2018) Feminine Becomings: Theories of the Girl and the Moving Image. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Abstract

This thesis is a study of the Girl and moving image artworks. The Girl—capitalised to mark it as conceptual question, not an age, stage or designation—is examined as a dimension of feminine subjectivity that amplifies but also challenges specific forms of feminist thought and aesthetic practices. It is addressed as a question in this thesis, specifically posed to a text by feminist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986), and artworks by two artist/filmmakers, Chantal Akerman (1950-2015) and Eija-Liisa Ahtila (b. 1959). In Chapter 1, I formulate ‘the Girl’ as an ontological question and a dimension of feminine subjectivity. I draw upon this philosophically in a close reading of the chapter on ‘The Girl’ in The Second Sex (1949) by Simone de Beauvoir, establishing the distinct temporality of her situation of becoming. In Chapter 2, I explore the relationship between the Girl and cinema in films by Chantal Akerman, analysing Portrait d'une jeune fille de la fin des années 60 à Bruxelles (1993) and No Home Movie (2015). For the Girl to be analysed I have created a concept for Akerman’s cinema: the cinéfille, making the Girl a cinematic position in addition to a philosophical position. Focusing on the emergence in the 1990s of new forms of the moving image, in Chapter 3 I elaborate the distinctive relation between the Girl, the moving image and temporality by analysing a multi-screen installation artwork by Eija-Liisa Ahtila titled If 6 Was 9 (1995). The chapter considers the relationship between philosophical and feminist theories of difference, duration and the moving image, situating the figure of the Girl as a critical agent for imagining the future in terms of radical transformation. The study aims to contribute to debates on the moving-image from a feminist perspective on the relationship between the Girl and durational aesthetic practices. The Girl forms a thread which draws together this thesis by also tracing of theoretical genealogy from de Beauvoir’s historical inscription of the questioning of the feminine through Akerman’s cinematic exploration and then Ahtila’s movement into new forms of philosophical and aesthetic processes. The thesis identifies a clear historical shift of thinking the feminine at the intersection with significant technological changes, where the context of our encounter becomes vastly different. To understand contemporary feminist practice in the moving image, these three instances that I examine register the shifts, reveal complexity and have far-reaching significance for the Girl to the question of the feminine and subjectivity addressed to moving image artworks as a site for exploring such becomingness.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Girl, Feminism, Simone de Beauvoir, Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Chantal Akerman, Moving Image, Film, Cinema, psychoanalysis, feminist theory,
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > Fine Art, History of Art & Cultural Studies (Leeds)
Depositing User: Dr Elspeth Mitchell
Date Deposited: 04 Dec 2018 15:03
Last Modified: 04 Dec 2018 15:03
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/22263

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