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Title: The leaven, regarding the lump : feminism and cinematic spectatorship in H.D.'s writing on film
Author: Hopewell, Katherine Elizabeth.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3581 4539
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2003
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The poet and novelist H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) published eleven essays on the cinema in the film journal Close Up between 1927 and 1929. This thesis analyses H.D.' s writing on film from a feminist perspective. It also explores the connections between her commentary on film and the feminist aspects of some of her fictional works. Largely based upon archival film research, this thesis incorporates a much greater amount of film history than has yet been brought to the study of H.D. Placing her within the cultural context of the time, it also represents the first extended examination of H.D. in relation to popular culture. The thesis is structured in three parts, each comprising two chapters and considering H.D.' s writings on film from a different viewpoint. In the first part, H.D.'s cultural position as a woman and film critic is debated. In assessing the impact of gender upon H.D.' s construction of a public, critical voice it is argued that the association of the feminine with popular forms of entertainment led H.D. to exaggerate her difference from the mass of cinema spectators. Evidence of H.D.' s contradictory position is found in the discrepancies between the highculture stance adopted in her film writing, and in the feminist themes and implied authorial positions in her novels Bid Me to Live (written in 1939) and Her (written in 1927). In the central section, H.D.' s critique of women in film is examined in the context of representations of women in silent cinema. Her commentary on film is found to contain astute remarks on the commodification of women on the screen, as well as a sophisticated and sustained attempt to theorize the position of the feminine in the visual economy, which bears comparison with contemporary feminist film scholarship. It is argued that H.D.'s feminist critique of the cinematic gaze re-emerges in the subversive narrative strategies of two novellas: Nights (1935) and 'Kora and Ka' (1935). In the third part, the focus narrows to analyse H.D.'s response to one particular film actress, namely Greta Garbo. The extent to which H.D. 's continuing re-evaluation of the cultural significance of the figure of Helen of Troy was inspired by Garbo's star image is deliberated. From the first encounter with Garbo's image on screen recorded in Close Up in 1927, to the meditations on a Garbo-like figure in The Usual Star (1934) and finally in the reworking of the myths of Helen in Helen in Egypt (1961) it is suggested that Garbo's screen career provided H.D. with a prototype on which to base increasingly complex ideas about women, narrative and identity. The strategy adopted in each section is to establish the feminist issues raised by H.D.' s essays on film, and then go on to explore these same issues as they arise in her fictional texts. Repeatedly, it is found that H.D.'s fictional work takes up a question treated with relative simplicity in Close Up and develops it into a complex meditation on the inter-relation between gender, power and art.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Hilda Doolittle