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Describe the contributions of 'psychoanalytic theory' to film theory and visual culture in general. Be sure to discuss the effect of 'pleasure' and the 'gaze' i - Essay Example

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Psychoanalytic theory has been a dominant theoretical basis for debate within the multidisciplinary science of visual culture. Psychoanalytic approaches have been used to investigate how humans experience, understand, express and communicate their perceptions of the visual image…
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Describe the contributions of psychoanalytic theory to film theory and visual culture in general. Be sure to discuss the effect of pleasure and the gaze i
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Download file to see previous pages Psychoanalytic thought pointed to early films of the 1940s as examples, and stated that some of these films were aimed at particular groups of viewers/spectators, in this case women as the films of this era have become known as a genre of "women's films". The subject of women in these films was considered to provide real world women with an ideal subject in that they were the perfect spectator regardless of the meaning delivered by the film.
Also the work of Foucault has been drawn upon to empahsise the use of institutional power to normalize the gaze. For example, how things are understood by a person is influenced by the society and institutions in which that person is embedded, as these social norms are presented within the visual images used by that society. In this way, visual culture becomes a body of knowledge that defines and limits what can be said about sexuality and gender relations as well as the identification of self. He considered issues of power and knowledge to be a cooperative state, not a coercive one, so that the maintenance of a dominant gendered, (i.e., male) over a subordinate one (i.e., female) was dependant on the acceptance of each gender as to the social norms that dictate such states. He considered docile bodies as presented on photographic film as conforming to the social norms of the ideal body and sexuality.
Metz (1970) has characterised spectatorship as the process of the viewer suspending their disbelief of a fantasy on film and identifying with particular characters presented through the film. Especially, the spectator identifies with the underlying ideology of the film by way of identifying with the structure and visual points of view present within the film. The process of spectatorship initiates fantasy structures that are housed within the unconscious; for example, how to be the ideal woman, or to have the ideal marriage.
In this way psychoanalytic theory described human functioning as a process of suppressing unconscious desires, fears and particular memories so as to maintain a socially acceptable lifestyle. In contrast to Lacan's later theories, Freud advocated that the unconscious was a phenomenon that existed within each individual and that drove current behaviours. The idea of the unconscious had a dramatic effect on how academics, philosophers and human psychology theorists approached the human psych. The reality of an unconscious deconstructed a humanist ideal that existed about the self at this time. Freud anticipated that making the knowledge of the unconscious conscious within each person that repression of desires and memories would be reduced, and so too experiences of neurosis which were seen to arise from repression. He emphasized that the "id" or unconscious would be the predominant response to life circumstances if repressed, and so replace the "I" or consciousness and self-identity. He summed this in his famous quote "Where It was, shall I be". In this sense the overall goal of Freud's psychoanalytic approach was to strengthen the "I" and to maintain a conscious and rational identity within people that could be more powerful than the unconscious.
Later theories of Jaques Lancan (1978) and subjectivity, investigated film analysis of the 1970s. As such, the gaze was seen as representing a view of language and the language structures used in communication that in turn reinforce culturally-bound experiences of subjectivity. Positional gazes refer to viewing ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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