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Another false trail. The remembered details of early existence — moments, sensations and images — have an arbitrary poetic authenticity which is a by-product of being detached from the prosaic context and perspective which encumbers adult minds, the rational understanding which would rob them of their mysterious force. We all have around two or three radioactive Rosebud fragments of childhood memory in our minds, which will return on our deathbeds to mock the insubstantial dream of our lives. We only hear of it in the newsreel about Kane that begins the film — the brief roundup that we are invited to believe does not get to the heart of the man.

But that is the last we hear of it. It happens two years into his second marriage. When does Kane hear this terrible news himself? How does he react to the death of his first wife and his adored little boy? We never know. And this is the final unspoken moral of Citizen Kane : a terrible tragedy of ownership and egotism — a narcissistic drowning. Facebook Twitter Pinterest. Topics Film. Film books Orson Welles Citizen Kane features. Reuse this content.


Order by newest oldest recommendations. Show 25 25 50 All. These debates have keyed into studies of the figuration of the feminine within social and cultural discourses and representational forms in a larger attempt to account for the processes of feminine subjectivity; one that provides a dialogue between the rhetorics of address in popular representation and the forms by which social life is organised and articulated.

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Feminist theorists have asked not only what the category 'woman' means and how it is produced, but what it means for women to take up their own position in relation to femininity. This has entailed turning away from cataloguing 'correct' or 'positive' images which are seen to voice women's 'reality', for such catalogues not only suggest that there are such final judgments to be made, but also pin down the feminine to an orthodoxy within which no struggle can be articulated.

Instead, theorists have sought to find the right range of definitions inscribed within representations of sexual difference, disaggregating those categories which act to fix and polarise sexual difference. They have moved to analyse the diverse modes of subjectivity, to analyse the ways in which we may use our engagement with representational mechanisms to 'perform' the contradictory relations of gendered identities, focussing on differences between women and within the construction of femininity. The female spectator is formed in a delicate balance between the recognisable common strands of female subjectivity and the disparate particularities of her own history.

Two recent volumes show something of the divergent and contested field of the theorisation of female spectatorship, carrying different implications for such new work. Mary Ann Doane makes a specific intervention in Desire to Desire 1 with her meticulous analysis of the woman's film of the '40s. She discusses the psychic processes that order women's relation to desire, the textual inscriptions of sexuality and the engagements spectators are offered, showing how these relations are framed and formed by the logics of social discourses.

Female Spectators 2 , a collection edited by Deirdre Pribram, presents a set of recent essays which draw on different and often contradictory models of spectatorship and subjectivity. The volume represents a summary range of characteristic positions, recent critiques and theoretical developments. Desire to Desire investigates the forms of representation found in the woman's film, its address to the female spectator and the discursive field of femininity. Arguing that sexual representations, identities and readings are composed from disparate and incommensurate strands, Doane examines their connections outwards; to woman addressed as consumer or signifier of modernity, rebellious sexuality produced in medical discourses as dysfunctional femininity, femininity constructed as pathology.


Woman as object becomes one term in a system of positioning, and the text one factor in a series of discursive processes. Thus subjectivity is not reducible to the narrative, the image, the reading, but is produced through a set of intersecting discourses which fragment attempts to construct wholeness. From this analysis of the competing constructions of woman, arises the figure of the female spectator, site of these shifting processes.

This approach reveals a changing emphasis in current theoretical work; 'the' spectator is reworked from what was seen as a stable position into a process, spectator ship. Not only does this challenge a concept of meaning which is 'there' in the text, simply to be 'spotted' the spectator amounting to a simply reactive mechanism , but it makes possible a model of subjectivity and spectatorship which is a less fixed and fatalistic affair, which is not completely secured by the indomitable machine of ideology.

The spectator is permitted agency in cultural relations, and the diversity of femininity and of processes of spectatorship is asserted in an excavation of possible reading positions not exhausted by processes of the text. For Doane this move describes a double-sided project. On the one hand, she explores the range of ways in which femininity is figured, addressed, formed.

On the other hand, she hopes to specify a distinctly female subjectivity which does not remain within patriarchal constructions of femininity as 'other' to the central term of masculinity. While this project acknowledges that feminine identity is formed in relation to systems of sexual positioning, it proposes that in their own psychic construction women must do more than merely 'signify' and 'play to' masculinity. Rather than showing 'woman' as "cut to the measure of male desire", 3 Doane attempts to discover the strategic ways that women position themselves in relation to the discourses of popular representations.

The woman's film provides a limit-case genre for Doane because its address to a female audience motivates the incitement of the female gaze at the feminine image. This results in relations of narcissism, proximity, 'over'-identification with the image - particularly shown in the operation of pathos, which demands immersion in the object, a dissolution of the relations which characterise a masculine pattern of imaginary unity. In those forms of cinema that privilege masculine spectator-relations, the image of woman is held within a voyeuristically and fetishistically distanced looking, while narrativity is priotirised over image, closure over disequilibrium.

Insofar as it is caught up in these cinematic forms, the woman's film may inscribe femininity distinctively and it may simultaneously seek to provide a textual resolution of its features, one which casts femininity as lacking and deficient.

However, the feminine is produced through image and spectacle and so cannot be secured into temporality and closure; it is resistant to narrativity and so its signification disrupts textual coherence. The disruption which the woman entails for representation is mirrored in the relations of female spectatorship that Doane outlines. Women's more marked narcissism allows identification with the image rather than narrative movement and suggests the impossibility of a stable separation of subject from object for the feminine. Within modes of representation founded on the distanced forms of looking, characterised by voyeurism and fetishism, such constructions of female spectatorship must be fundamentally problematic.

The Desire to Desire: The Woman's Film of the 1940s

How do these elements come together in the woman's film? If the feminine is primarily signified through the image, then the female spectator's narcissistic identification is directed to the female body. But in the woman's film this body is offered in a de-eroticised form, and so the female spectator is brought to identify with a body that no longer carries the signs of femininity. For "to de-sexualise the female body is ultimately to deny its very existence" p. The impossibility of occupying an embodied and distinctively feminine position denies the female spectator a place from which to read.

The woman is cast as object, she can only signify the position of lack structuring male desire. Desire may be insatiable, it may entail the constantly renewed pursuit for a perpetually lost object, but at least the male has desire p. Having no access to an active desiring subjectivity, she becomes the subject of passive desire, a masochistic position where her desire can only be directed towards the possibility of masculine desiring.

The unstable and fractured nature of texts which manage these relations gives a purchase on what the female spectator means to cinema. But despite the force of Doane's analysis, it remains to be seen whether this model gives an equal purchase on what the cinema means to the female spectator. For while these 'tropes of female spectatorship' may carry force within filmic representation, we should also consider the female spectator in the cinema as a third term, equally fractured and 'troubled' in her subjectivity.

The gap between the female spectator in the audience and that posited and addressed by the text, destabilises neat patterns of fragmentation established by the textual analysis of spectatorship. She cannot be secured by accounts of the 'image repertoire of poses' that represent femininity.

Doane's use of her textual focus, however, is carefully formulated within the terms of a heterogeneous spectatorship that exists in the fissures of address. While she is committed to establishing the field of possible meanings within which female spectators may move, she is also concerned to identify and read the "symptoms of ideological stress which accompany the concerted effort to engage female subjectivity within conventional narrative forms" p.

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  • The Desire to Desire the Woman's Film of the 1940's by Doane Mary Ann.
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This explains her focus on the conception of female subjectivity assumed by these forms of cinema, even if it is at the expense of other engagements and reformulations. Doane sees the potential of her insights as indicating ways of reformulating 'desiring subjectivity for the woman - in another cinematic practice', a different form of representation that would articulate female subjectivity differently.

In its methodology and selection of material both generic and extra-filmic , this study offers an exciting examination of the mechanisms by which female subjectivity is performed - it provides many points of recognition in the ways we are secured into the forms of engagement which bestow such images and identities with the marks of absolute sense. Finally, while television voices do have power owing to their combination of two models, that of the storytelling mother and the lecturer , Jullier insists that this power should not be overestimated.

The power of the voices, he explains, stems essentially from the power of language. The rise of audiovisual media other than film and television, and the generalization of the use of the voice by such media reinforce the need for theoretical tools that apprehend the audio-phenomenon in relation with the contexts of production and reception. However, this bibliographical overview of the discussions over voice in cinema shows that there is a growing and diverse literature on the subject. The focus on the asynchronous voice allows to touch on the various debates about taxonomy and theoretical perspectives that have stirred the academic community.

From the generalization of synchronized sound to the advent of a new century marked by the emergence of new audiovisual phenomena, critics have followed a movement from film as text to audience reception. After the first denunciations of synchronous speech as a redundant tool that threatened the purity of the medium, theorists tried to define sound in relation with the images.

Although they usually preserved a hierarchy that favored the visual, their first attempts at a taxonomy pointed to film sound as a possible object of research. When film sound studies really developed from the late s onwards, the first issue was with developing an appropriate vocabulary. The issue of taxonomy has been further complicated for French critics who have to deal with an imprecise translation of voice-over into voix-off.

Nonetheless, the solution retained by most is to keep the traditional triad while insisting on the porosity of each category. Yet, it is important to keep in mind that in the area of film sound studies, the preference for certain terms may be linked to particular approaches. As film sound studies developed, they followed the theoretical path trodden by film studies in general. Thus, the psychoanalytic approach was adopted by several critics with even more enthusiasm when they chose to focus on the voice.

Feminist scholars, who in the aftermath of Mulvey were concerned with issues of fetishism in film, saw in the female voice in cinema a topic that would demonstrate the patriarchal nature of the cinematic apparatus. Their contributions to the field remain landmarks for anyone studying the voice in audiovisual media.

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Despite the surge of interest for film sound that went hand in hand with such approaches, they were criticized for essentializing cinema through their lack of historical perspective and by not taking into account the variety of audience members. Scholars felt the need to combine different methodologies to comprehend the various facets of films as events.

History, aesthetics, narratology, semiology, pragmatics and cognitive sciences are some of the approaches theoreticians have associated to take into account the particular contexts that influence the production and reception of film sound. They have also led to the analysis of the specificity of television sound. Such approaches have developed tools that can be applied to other audiovisual media, where the power of the voice is not to be underestimated.

Altman, Rick, ed. New Haven: Yale University Press, Altman, Rick. New York; London: Routledge, Silent Film Sound. New York: Columbia University Press, Sound Theory, Sound Practice. Arnheim, Rudolf. Avron, Dominique. Paris: Klincksieck, Baudry, Jean-Louis. Beck, Jay and Tony Grajeda, eds. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, Boillat, Alain.

Lausanne: Editions Antipodes, Chion, Michel.

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Paris: Armand Colin, Doane, Mary Ann. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, Gorbman, Claudia. New York: Continuum, Bruxelles: P. Jullier, Laurent. Kozloff, Sarah. Berkeley: University of California Press, Kracauer, Siegfried. Princeton, N.

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Lawrence, Amy. Mulvey, Laura. Odin, Roger. Percheron, Daniel, and Marcia Butzel. Restivo, Angelo. Schaeffer, Pierre. Sergi, Gianluca. The Dolby Era: Film sound in contemporary Hollywood.