Please select one of the following topics:
1. As Carol J. Clover has argued, popular film can function as a litmus test indicating pervasive cultural attitudes about sex and gender. However, it remains to be determined whether our engagement with popular films such as slashers, Westerns, and action movies, reinforce conventional norms or challenge them. Discuss the portrayal of gender and/or sex in one or two (but not more) of the revenge tragedies from our syllabus, considering carefully whether that portrayal suggests at a conventional or subversive set of attitudes.
2. In “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” Laura Mulvey has argued that one of the primary functions of modern cinema is scopophilic; that is to say, it fulfills a basic psychological drive that derives erotic pleasure from looking. There is a case to be made that slasher films are as driven by a similar scopophilic impulse as pornography, particularly in the way they ‘look at’ beautiful naked women. Discuss how one revenge tragedy film from our syllabus is centrally motivated by a scopophilic impulse. How can a view of the film as centrally motivated by a desire to objectify a visual object help clarify its meaning?
3. The revenge tragedy often features a remarkably resistant protagonist, one whose survival over the course of the action is a defining feature of his/her ethos or character. Discuss the quality of endurance in one or more of the revenge tragedies featured on our syllabus. How is that quality itself defined or characterized through one or more of the characters featured onstage or onscreen? What type of person is the most enduring man or woman?
4. In Gunfighter Nation, Richard Slotkin argues that violence and zero-sum “savage wars” serve a vital function in the myth of the American frontier, a myth that is still alive and well in American culture. With reference to one American action film not on our current syllabus, discuss how Slotkin’s concept of a “savage war” can help make sense of its construction of violence.
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