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Title: The femme fatale in 20th century British Century
Author: McMahon, Gary
ISNI:       0000 0004 2698 8993
Awarding Body: The Manchester Metropolitan University
Current Institution: Manchester Metropolitan University
Date of Award: 2010
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There is no study of the scope of the British film femme fatale: her nature and heritage have not been documented. That's what this thesis does. How does British society and history modify this figure? Does she reflect the social fortunes of British women, or is she such a fantasy that there is no correlation? I reject the psychoanalytic model that customarily interprets this subject and this field, so I borrow some Jungian magical thinking and follow an interdisciplinary trail of associations to test her merit as an archetype. And since archetypes are supposed to be unchanging, I am on a collision course with a Cultural studies model that ordinarily expects social adaptation. She is conspicuously absent from the British new wave and realism, but this reflects an ideological disparity between a left-wing aesthetic and the sovereign, dictatorial demeanour of the femme fatale. There are transcending archetypal consistencies: they relate to her embodiment of man's ambivalence about Mother Nature, acting out inevitable death from a cellular to a macrocosmic scale, inherited from mythological predecessors in media such as literature, painting and music. Not a figure to be trifled with, then. It turns out she does change with the times, progressively more physical in sexuality, aggression and mobility. Only Britain's war genre was closed to her, as her specialism moved from melodrama and crime to spy and horror films. She goes where the money is (box office), but her motivation ranges from materialism to vengeance to power to sadism. She is now sometimes construed as an assertive feminist role-model, but this contrivance applies only to the degree that might apply to the first British woman Prime Minister. Her masculine adaptation now demonstrates the devaluing of femininity, in both genders, in a ruthless, martial, capitalist culture, so that the term I find objectionable in my review is now objectionably valid: 'Phallic Woman' enjoys equal opportunity as anti-hero. You watch a film, take notes as you go looking for contrasting patterns with representations of the subject in this and other genres and other media. Notes loosely structured by headings categorise some observations at a stroke: costume; mobility; animalistic motifs; recurring characteristics that gradually coalesce into clusters to suggest sub-types offemmes fatales; mythological or psychological imagery. in turn resolved into sub-headings; same with themes. The categories make comparisons cogent. Other notes are freeform, open to any intuited observation, inviting dissociation, insuring against boxing yourself into presumptions. Then you can on a curator of special collections or a censor or a manager sitting on an archive at Pinewood Studios, and with a view to access all areas try to get them as enthused about this research as you are ... which requires an appreciation of storytelling that this chapter affirms as a research framework. To be transparent about it the moment you look for a beginning, middle or en~ or present a paper or otherwise share your work, you're into a storytelling narrative. That standard candid snapshot of one strategy extends to news footage and period television in my case, and organises my eclectic reading of art, mythology~ religion history, literature, music ... trawling for associations on the understanding that some conclusions in the humanities are found objects, so tangentially do they appear in the researcher's perceptual field. That's how W,J.T. Mitchell came to the fore from a supervisor's recommendation in art theory, and a Playboy interview came to qualify a psychoanalytic disquisition on 'the monstrous female.' This unconventional lateral research aims to show how transcendental themes and figures bind an unlikely grouping. An international comparison of films would do that, but the scope would rob the attention to British cinema that this thesis establishes as a unique radius for studying the femme fatale. I court creative accidents with a non-quantitative strategy of making an empty folder of 'Case Studies.' Pragmatic - but premeditated in the weighting on highly active, symbolic portrayals. My thematic approach gathers pertinence with incidences: themes define themselves by recurrence to make the case for the persistence of vision that any Jungian would associate with an archetype of the collective unconscious if there is one, and that anyone attuned to Aby Warburg would expect from a primal figure in art.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available