"Fascinated Victims:" Aspects of Abjection in the Films of David Cronenberg

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Title: "Fascinated Victims:" Aspects of Abjection in the Films of David Cronenberg
Author: Sullivan, Gordon Matthew
Advisors: Devin Orgeron, Committee Chair
Marsha Orgeron, Committee Member
Jon Thompson, Committee Member
Abstract: "Fascinated Victims:" Aspects of Abjection in the Films of David Cronenberg" traces the intersections between Julia Kristeva's theory of the abjection and the films of David Cronenberg. While this pairing has been the center of critical attention for some time, remarkably little attention has been paid to the specifically cinematic production and presentation of abjection in Cronenberg's work. "Fascinated Victims" hopes to mine this territory and, in so doing, it aims to foreground more generally the cinematic medium's proclivity for the abject. The primary means of analysis will be close reading of a number of key Cronenberg films, with particular attention paid to the various means through which abjection is produced. Occasional reference will be made to Cronenberg's responses to his films, and to their critical and theoretical surroundings. Although critical consensus seems to be that Cronenberg's use of the abject serves to make women monstrous, the present work will shift that focus for the figure of abjection to those forces, cinematically and diegetically, who are responsible for the process of abject-ing. Chapter 1 provides a survey of the critical literature regarding abjection in Cronenberg's films. Critics treat Cronenberg's films with little reference to his specifically cinematic tools, and find abjection in specific abject "objects," like the parasites of Shivers (1975). The critical failure to discuss Cronenberg in cinematic terms, to analyze the particular effects the cinematic apparatus might have on our understanding of the abject will be connected to the cinematic representation of the abject, demonstrating the need to explicate abjection in specifically cinematic terms. Chapter 2 examines closely what we might call Cronenberg's abjectifying narrative strategies. Through the use of the subjective point of view and the representation of hallucinations, Cronenberg reinforces the abject images on the screen. Furthermore, by connecting the viewer to a protagonist through the subjective point of view, the boundary between character and viewer is collapsed, producing another form of abjection. Chapter 3 will examine the process of adaptation in light of the abject. Because Cronenberg often adapts material from other media, creating hybrids in a manner that recalls the abject, both Naked Lunch and Crash will be analyzed to understand how their status as adaptations reinforce the abject produced by other cinematic means. The adaptation, by fusing media, elides the boundary between cinematic author/text and literary author/text, which recalls the lack of boundary in the abject. As with narrative techniques, adaptive techniques both reinforce the abject on the screen, while producing their own brand of abjection. The conclusion will discuss the use of the abject in the context, of Cronenberg's — and his critics' — attitude toward gender. Because Cronenberg's early films often feature monstrous women, while his later films see a transition to almost exclusively masculine monsters, the issue of gender is central to the use of abjection in Cronenberg's films, and to the wider question of his misogyny. With an understanding of the specifically cinematic means through which Cronenberg represents the abject, the charges of misogyny that critics have leveled at the director will be evaluated.
Date: 2007-11-01
Degree: MA
Discipline: English
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/252

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