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Title: Physical spectatorship and the mutilation film
Author: Wilson, Laura
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis explores what I call 'physical spectatorship' as it is generated by a group of films concerned with the mutilation of the human body. Focusing on the representation of mutilation on the screen and the physical responses this evokes, the thesis is organised around the study of a series of dynamic engagements that reconfigure the film-viewer relationship; these include: corporeal mimicry and the cinematic visualisations of mutilation; generalised anxiety and experimental use of sound; and the nausea generated by audio-visual techniques that both signify and locate the filmic gut in the viewer's body. Combining close textual analyses with theoretical approaches, this thesis draws upon psychoanalytic, phenomenological and feminist theories of film and spectatorship. Throughout the chapters, my argument builds upon the work of Vivian Sobchack and Laura Marks in order to interrogate further what might be meant by the notion of the embodied spectator. The chapters explore this notion, alongside that of the film viewer, to generate a dialogue with previous theorists of the cinematic spectator, including Christian Metz and Richard Rushton. Exploring through close textual analyses the specific filmic techniques that generate intense physical responses, this thesis argues that the mutilation film demands a rethinking of some of the key categories in theories of spectatorship. Extending across national cinemas and reaching beyond conventional generic distinctions, the mutilation film produces a visceral aesthetic that has yet to be analysed. Focusing on particular aspects of the mutilation film, such as the assault narrative sequence, use of extreme frequencies and haptic sounds and images, the thesis offers detailed readings of the following texts: Dans Ma Peau (Marina de Van, 2002), Irréversible (Gaspar Noé, 2002), Saw II (Darren Lynn Bousman, 2005) Saw III (Darren Lynn Bousman, 2006) Saw IV (Darren Lynn Bousman, 2007) Saw V (David Hackl, 2008) Saw VI (Kevin Greutert, 2009) Saw 3D (Kevin Greutert, 2010), Hostel (Eli Roth, 2005), À l'intérieur (Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, 2007), The Human Centipede: First Sequence (Tom Six, 2009) and The Human Centipede: Full Sequence (Tom Six, 2011).The analyses that form this thesis demonstrate the problems with separating notions of the 'spectator as textual construction' from that of the 'viewer as physically embodied'; yet these readings also indicate the necessity of continuing the task of conceptualising their interrelatedness, rather than simply using them interchangeably. The conclusion argues that the concept of physical spectatorship offers one way to understand how particular contemporary aesthetics have reconfigured the boundary between viewer and film.
Supervisor: Butler, David Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Spectatorship ; physical ; mutilation ; embodiment ; voyeurism ; sound ; image ; haptics ; phenomenology ; Sobchack ; Marks ; Rushton