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A pleasure in pain : contemporary mainstream cinema's fascination with the aestheticized spectacle of the controlled body

By Steven William Allen


This thesis considers the ways in which the dominated, marked and suffering body (the controlled body) has been represented and employed in recent mainstream cinema. Noting a shift from narratives that depict escape and the alleviation of torment to ones that highlight subjection and endurance, it probes the influences and implications of the change.\ud The project employs an interdisciplinary approach that utilizes discourses from anthropology, art history and cultural studies in conjunction with textual analysis, and consequently attempts to rethink a pleasure in pain outside psychoanalytically informed theories. The thesis argues that diverse images of pain can be usefully understood by examining them as part of a collective negotiation of the relationship we have with our bodies in Western culture, especially in respect of agency and corporeality. Identifying a fascination for activities that fuse concepts of pain and pleasure, in particular sadomasochism, body modification, artwork and extreme sports, the study argues that the controlled body borrows heavily from these sources for its imagery but typically understates the social motivations of masochistic pleasure and assertion of autonomy.\ud The research uncovers a range of narrative strategies that justify depictions of masochism (especially in men) that deflect the implication of pleasurable pain whilst simultaneously formulating it as part of personal identity. It investigates how pain and the closeness to death are used to convey a vitality of existence, and also, through an analysis of the spectacle and the narrative patterns in recent films, offers an appreciation of how the spectator engages with the texts. Furthermore, the iconography of pain and control is shown to be important in our conceptualization of beauty, whilst the personal appropriation of suffering can be interpreted as an affirmative choice. The thesis therefore reveals that, with varying degrees of explicitness, mainstream cinema has broached contemporary anxieties regarding self determination and identity through the representation of the controlled body

Topics: BF, PN1993, HM
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:1228

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