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The focal point in recent feminist film criticism is the controlling power of the “male gaze” as it works to relegate women to marginality, silence, or absence. Ann Kaplan takes four films from different decades from Hollywood’s “classical period” (1930-60), and a contemporary Hollywood film, Looking for Mr Goodbar, and analyses the traditional ways in which women have been represented in the cinema, pointing out the recurring patterns within patriarchal images that serve to objectify and degrade.

The second half of the book concentrates on the cinema that women have produced in response to these images, summarizing the decade about realism in feminist film criticism, and examining the work of contemporary European, British, and American female filmmakers.

The controversy over feminism and film has intensified over the last ten years, with various schools of thought emerging, from the sociological and political to the structuralist and psychological. Kaplan offers a synthesis of the opposing theories by focusing on social structures while simultaneously acknowledging the importance of an informed psychoanalytic stance.

Her analyses of individual films are accessible and lively, ably demonstrating in a concrete way the theoretical issues under debate. The work is an important contribuition to film theory, and to cultural studies in general, surveying the distance that feminist film criticism has traveled since 1970 and posing questions about its future.

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What happens when white people look at non-whites? What happens when the gaze is returned? Looking for the Other responds to criticisms leveled at white feminist film theory of the 1970s and 1980s for its neglect of issues to do with race. It focuses attention on the male gaze across cultures, as illustrated by women filmmakers of color whose films deal with travel.

Looking relations are determined by history, tradition, myth; by national identity, power hierarchies, politics, economics, geographical and other environment. Travel implicitly involves looking at, and looking relations with, peoples different from oneself. Featured films include Birth of a Nation, The Cat People, Home of the Brave, Black Narcissus, Chocolat, and Warrior Marks. Featured filmmakers include D. W. Griffith, Jacques Tourneur, Michael Powell, Julie Dash, Pratibha Parmar, Trinh T. Min-ha, and Claire Denis.

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This book brings together carefully selected essays on feminism and film with a view to tracing major developments in theory, criticism, and practices of women and cinema from 1973 to the present day. It illuminates the powerful, if controversial, role feminist research has played in the emergence of Film Studies as a discipline during these years; reprinting influential 1970s pioneering essays tracing the ensuing debates and challenges to key theories that shaped this field in the next two decades. Kaplan details the Euro-American contexts within which feminist film theories and practices emerged and traces the changing influences of French, German, and American intellectual movements on feminist film research. As well as a wide-ranging introduction which sets the selection of essays in context, readers will find examples of social-role, psychoanalytic, structuralist, post-structuralist, gay and lesbian, postmodern and postcolonial feminist film criticism, prefaced by introductory notes and including further readings.

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It may be said that every trauma is two traumas or ten thousand-depending on the number of people involved. How one experiences and reacts to an event is unique and depends largely on one’s direct or indirect positioning, personal psychic history, and individual memories. But equally important to the experience of trauma are the broader political and cultural contexts within which a catastrophe takes place and how it is “managed” by institutional forces, including the media.

In Trauma Culture, E. Ann Kaplan explores the relationship between the impact of trauma on individuals and on entire cultures and nations. Arguing that humans possess a compelling need to draw meaning from personal experience and to communicate what happens to others, she examines the artistic, literary, and cinematic forms that are often used to bridge the individual and collective experience. A number of case studies, including Sigmund Freud’s Moses and Monotheism, Marguerite Duras’ La Douleur, Sarah Kofman’s Rue Ordener, Rue Labat, Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound, and Tracey Moffatt’s Night Cries, reveal how empathy can be fostered without the sensationalistic element that typifies the media.

From World War II to 9/11, this passionate study eloquently navigates the contentious debates surrounding trauma theory and persuasively advocates the responsible sharing and translating of catastrophe.

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Each month brings new scientific findings that demonstrate the ways in which human activities, from resource extraction to carbon emissions, are doing unprecedented, perhaps irreparable damage to our world. As we hear these climate change reports and their predictions for the future of Earth, many of us feel a sickening sense of déjà vu, as though we have already seen the sad outcome to this story.

Drawing from recent scholarship that analyzes climate change as a form of “slow violence” that humans are inflicting on the environment, Climate Trauma theorizes that such violence is accompanied by its own psychological condition, what its author terms “Pretraumatic Stress Disorder.” Examining a variety of films that imagine a dystopian future, renowned media scholar E. Ann Kaplan considers how the increasing ubiquity of these works has exacerbated our sense of impending dread. But she also explores ways these films might help us productively engage with our anxieties, giving us a seemingly prophetic glimpse of the terrifying future selves we might still work to avoid becoming.

Examining dystopian classics like Soylent Green alongside more recent examples like The Book of Eli, Climate Trauma also stretches the limits of the genre to include features such as Blindness, The Happening, Take Shelter, and a number of documentaries on climate change. These eclectic texts allow Kaplan to outline the typical blind-spots of the genre, which rarely depicts climate catastrophe from the vantage point of women or minorities. Lucidly synthesizing cutting-edge research in media studies, psychoanalytic theory, and environmental science, Climate Trauma provides us with the tools we need to extract something useful from our nightmares of a catastrophic future.

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