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Disciplining the Spectator: Subjectivity, the Body and Contemporary Spectatorship

By Theresa Anne Cronin


In this thesis the author argues that although questions of the spectator’s corporeal engagement with film are much neglected by film theory, the body is nevertheless a central term within contemporary cinema, in its mode of address, as a locus of anxiety in media effects debate, and as site of disciplinary practices. And while the thesis begins by demonstrating both the socially and historically constructed nature of spectatorship, and the specific practices that work to create contemporary cinema’s corporeal address, the latter half of the dissertation devotes itself to revealing the regulatory implications of this physical address. That is, the author shows that cinema’s perceived capacity of affect the body of the spectator is a profound source of cultural anxiety. But more importantly, through an analysis of the films Funny Games, Irréversible, Wolf Creek, and the genre of ‘torture porn’ more generally, what is revealed in these final chapters is that the regulation of cinema in the contemporary era is less a question of the institutionalised censorship of texts, and more a question of regulating the ‘self’. In this respect, the author demonstrates the specific disciplinary practices that attempt to present the problem of violent, and sexually violent, imagery not as a textual issue per se, but a question of the formation of appropriate spectatorial relations. Moreover, this study begins the process of teasing out the ways in which the contemporary spectator is induced to see the problem of media violence as one that can be resolved through what\ud Foucault would term, techniques of the self

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