Film feminism, or motion picture patriarchy

I have been researching and writing a paper for my FSEM (Hollywood Films and History) on the historical accuracy of Kathryn Bigelow’s films, The Hurt Locker (2008)and Zero Dark Thirty (2012), both Academy Award-winning.  She is the only woman director to have won an Oscar for Best Director, which was for The Hurt Locker.

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It only just hit me now:  why is the only female-won Oscar for Best Director awarded for a very masculine film?  Does a director have to make masculine films to win an Oscar?  Or were all previous female directors just not the “best”, and it is coincidental that a masculine film was the first to break the mold?  Such questions go back to the canon dilemma.  How do you decide what films or literature are the “best” when the “judges” are unavoidably biased by an ideology?  (Are they unavoidably biased?)

Part 2 BIRD Imagery

So, we discussed the fish motif of Part 1.  Now how about the bird motif of Part 2?  Birds and associated objects crop up everywhere:  “Breadcrumbs are eaten by birds” (62); doves in the Temple scene; Mary 2’s childhood bird; Violet’s punishment in the bird-cage; and the bird-puppet that meets Violet in the forest.  What’s the role of the bird?

“Clamorous” Creativity

The BG entry on psychoanalytic criticism provided a somewhat startling comment of Freud’s.  According to the article, “[Freud] defined the artist as ‘one urged on by instinctive needs that are too clamorous'” (412-13).  Later, it reads that he characterized the “creative mind as ‘clamorous’ if not ill” (413).  Whoa!  How do you feel about that description?  Is the creative mind clamorous?  Is it ill?

Is Myrtle a foil for Gatsby?

There is a section of the Tyson chapter on Psychoanalytic Criticism that sparked my curiosity on this matter.  According to Tyson, “Daisy doesn’t realize it, but Gatsby and Myrtle function in much the same capacity for the Buchanans:  as psychological pawns in their relationship with each other” (46).  Both Gatsby and Myrtle serve as extramarital lovers to characters who demonstrate a “fear of intimacy” (39).  In that sense, they have similar romantic roles.  However, Myrtle differs from Gatsby in numerous key ways, which serve to accentuate Gatsby’s, well, better character.  Myrtle is the sensuous mistress, while Gatsby is the hopelessly devoted romantic.  Myrtle is low-class but trying to climb the social ladder, while Gatsby is wealthy to attract Daisy.  What are some other parallel differences?  Is this enough to say that Myrtle is a foil for Gatsby?  I know foils are usually of the same sex, but the parallel contrasts are interesting to me.  Maybe that’s all it is – a complex use of contrast?  I’m not sure.  Any thoughts?

Hannah’s Bridge to the Blog

Today, we kicked off our semester-long investigation of critical theory with the school of New Criticism, one of my favorite theories to explore.  It may seem odd for me to espouse New Criticism as a favorite, since Tyson highlights that it’s “the only theory covered in this book that is no longer practiced by literary critics” (135).  However, I think that though maybe outdated, New Criticism is by no means obsolete.  In fact, it is very pertinent to contemporary theory.

I like lists, so let’s consider the pros and cons.  Our class today proposed two main disadvantages of NC:

  1. 1.       Intrinsic criticism is limiting for the reader in the way of context.  Much of the meaning of a text is a result of the atmosphere in which it was written.  Thus, one can’t ignore such factors as historical setting and author biographical information or else risk misinterpretation.
  2. 2.       New Criticism is exclusive in the same way that the canon is exclusive.  Certain techniques and styles of writing can be unnecessarily condemned by New Critics as “bad writing,” thus marginalizing groups of writers.
  3. 3.       Critics cannot separate their own experience from their critical interpretations.  A New Critic will notice and interpret different structural elements differently.

On the other hand:

  1. 1.       New Criticism scorns the heresy of paraphrase.  The text is kept as it is and no meaning within the text can be lost.    
  2. 2.       It avoids intentional fallacy.  Does the author’s intention really matter?  If the author fails to achieve the original intention, does this aspect becomes irrelevant?  If the work is poorly written, the authorial intention likely doesn’t matter.
  3. 3.       Ideally, the text is kept pure.  The text is evaluated as it is, stripped of external influences and interpreted solely as a “timeless, autonomous (self-sufficient) verbal object” (Tyson 137).  Every word holds meaning, and the true literary craft can be analyzed in the purest way.

Everything aside, I think both the biggest advantage and disadvantage of New Criticism is that it is simply an idealistic form of critical theory.  New Criticism requires that literature be analyzed in a wholesome way, as a single piece of work separated from all outside context.  I feel like this theory could be wonderful, if New Critics could make unbiased interpretations, as the theory requires.  If there is an underlying meaning to a work that a reader cannot understand without external context, perhaps the meaning is too hidden to really mean much.

I don’t believe that New Criticism is a solution or the endpoint for all criticism, but it certainly is a valuable tool to be used for other critical theories.  Before a critic looks at a work through a particular lens – whether psychoanalytic or feminist criticism – it might be wise to first analyze the work as a stand-alone piece.  Literature can speak for itself; what is it saying?  That’s what New Criticism is out to understand.  It’s not the ultimate theory, but it is universal, and I feel it continues to benefit the whole panel of critical theory.