Date of Degree

10-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Comparative Literature

Advisor(s)

Giancarlo Lombardi

Subject Categories

Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Film and Media Studies | Women's Studies

Keywords

female gaze, feminism, Flanerie, gender, Italian cinema, Women in the city

Abstract

My dissertation lies at the intersection of Italian studies, film studies, women's studies, and urban studies. Applying gender studies and feminist theoretical perspectives, I trace a thematic map of contemporary Italian women's cinema (2000-2012) that investigates female subjectivity in urban contexts. Examining the works of the filmmakers Marina Spada, Francesca Comencini, Wilma Labate, Roberta Torre, and Alice Rohrwacher, I identify a common tendency to treat locations like characters, apply similar modalities of incorporating city-views into the narration, and recurrently construct parallels between physical journeys through cities and inner journeys of the self. As a prism through which to look at contemporary Italian society, the city articulates themes such as women's alienation and social invisibility, the challenge of reconciling motherhood and paid work, the debasement of the female body, and the role of institutions such as the Church and the family. The most prominent visual leitmotif in this cinematic production is that of the wandering woman contemplating the cityscape. What does walking signify in these works? During the women's liberation movement of the late sixties and seventies, the appropriation of public space was a form of resistance to patriarchal confinement of women to domestic spaces. The act of female `streetwalking,' typically associated with prostitution, was re-configured as an act of self-liberation. Through a close reading of the films, I argue that female flânerie, in all the articulations it takes in each film, represents an act of emancipation, an act of introspection, and a search for position in society. Furthermore, the image of the woman contemplating the city signifies, for filmmakers who struggle to appropriate the medium of film and carve a space in a male-dominated industry, an assertion of authorship. By identifying these female authorial voices and a common aesthetic project, my dissertation aims to address the knowledge gap about women's artistic expression while leading to a more complex understanding of Italian contemporary cinema.

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