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Vamps, Divas, Tramps, Lolitas

  • Module code: FI6009
  • Year: 2018/9
  • Level: 6
  • Credits: 30
  • Pre-requisites: Successful completion of Level 5 Film Studies requirements or equivalent
  • Co-requisites: None

Summary

This module will provide an insight into the classic Hollywood cinema's approach to issues relating to female sexuality. It will investigate the studio star industry with case studies of female stars, including Mae West, Marlene Dietrich, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Rita Hayworth, Liz Taylor and Marilyn Monroe. It will trace the development of the depiction of gender and sexuality on screen within their socio-political contexts (such as the Hays Code).

The module will explore the principal features of some of the archetypal 'bad' women on screen, investigating the ideologies and aesthetics which have shaped the  cinematic representations of femininity. The module will also map the development of specific female archetypes on screen from the screen 'goddess' or diva  (and her appeal for the male and female fans), through the stereotypes of the man-eating vamp and the female tramp to the child woman or 'Lolita' type.

Aims

  • To provide an insight into classic Hollywood cinema's approach to issues relating to female sexuality
  • To investigate the studios' star industry with case studies of female stars, including Greta Garbo, Mae West, Marlene Dietrich, Jean Harlow and Marilyn Monroe
  • To trace the development of the depiction of gender and sexuality on screen within their socio-political context (such as the Hays Code).

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, students will be able to:

  • Identify and explain the principal features of female screen stereotypes, such as the vamp and the child-woman ('Lolita')
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the ideologies and aesthetics shaping these cinematic representations of women
  • Map the development of specific types of screen idol, relating them to their context of production and reception
  • Critically examine the role of specific female stars or 'love goddesses' in relation to the depiction of female sexuality
  • Conduct close textual and contextual analyses of a selection of representative films from the period under review.

Curriculum content

  • An examination of the phenomenon of the screen 'goddess' or diva in the 1930s, and her sex-appeal for (male and female) fans, particularly Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich.
  • A critical inspection of the stereotype of the man-eating vamp and the 'fallen woman' or female tramp as two facets of the negative depiction of the (sexually) 'bad' woman.
  • A comparison of these earlier images with the child-woman or 'Lolita' type emerging in the late 1950s.
  • An investigation of the impact of censorship issues regarding the representation of sexuality on screen, such as the Hays Code in 1934.
  • An analysis of depictions of eroticism and female sexuality within their historical, political and cultural contexts in selected filmic texts from the 1930s onwards.

Teaching and learning strategy

This module will be taught through a series of weekly 3 hour lecture/workshops accompanied by a weekly screening of a key film or films. The lectures will comprise tutor led introduction to key themes and ideas with film-clips or, prepared student talks, followed by seminar-style analysis of specific set films (to be viewed prior to the class).

The module will make use of the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) Canvas for communication and dissemination of information between students and staff as well as making online learning materials available to all. Students should check this site on a daily basis for module information, timetables, sign-ups, updates and additional information and teaching materials.

All courses based in the Kingston School of Art offer students free access to the online video tutorial platform Lynda.com. This provides a wide range of subjects to choose from, many with downloadable exercise files, including software tutorials covering photography, graphics, web design, audio and music, CAD and Microsoft Office software, as well as courses on Business and Management skills. Some of these are embedded in the curriculum and offer additional self-paced learning, others may be taken at will by students wishing to broaden their employability skills in other areas.

Breakdown of Teaching and Learning Hours

Definitive UNISTATS Category Indicative Description Hours
Scheduled learning and teaching Screening sessions Lecture/seminar sessions 22 33
Guided independent study Independent study and viewing 245
Total (number of credits x 10) 300

Assessment strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to require students to think about and discuss the topic of female sexuality in the Golden Era of Hollywood (assessed formatively), and to explore this topic in depth and in analytical, intellectual and original ways in a 3000 - 4000 word research essay.

Mapping of Learning Outcomes to Assessment Strategy (Indicative)

Learning Outcome Assessment Strategy
Identify and explain the principal features of female screen stereotypes, such as the vamp and the child-woman. Assessed summatively in the essay and formatively in class discussions.
Demonstrate an understanding of the ideologies and aesthetics shaping these cinematic representations of women. Assessed summatively in the essay and formatively in class discussions.
Map the development of specific types of screen idol, relating them to their context of production and reception. Assessed summatively in the essay and formatively in class discussions.
Critically examine the role of specific female stars or 'love goddesses' in relation to the depiction of female sexuality. Assessed summatively in the essay and formatively in class discussions.
Conduct close textual and contextual analyses of a selection of representative films from the period under review. Assessed summatively in the essay and formatively in class discussions.

Elements of Assessment

Description of Assessment Definitive UNISTATS Categories Percentage
Essay 4000 words Coursework 100%
Total (to equal 100%) 100%

Achieving a pass

It IS a requirement that the element of assessment is passed in order to achieve an overall pass for the module.

Bibliography core texts

Dyer, Richard  (2004, 2nd ed.) Heavenly Bodies: Film Stars and Society, London BFI

Gledhill, Christine (ed.1991) Stardom - Industry of Desire, London: Routledge

Haskell, Molly (1987) From Reverence to Rape. The Treatment of Women in the Movies.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press

Kaplan, E. Ann(1999) Feminism and Film (Oxford readings in feminism) New York UP

McCabe, Janet (2004) Feminist Film Studies: Writing the Woman into Cinema, London: Wallflower

Mulvey, Laura (1975) 'Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema', Screen 16, 3, pp 6-18, reprinted in The Sexual Subject: A Screen Reader in Sexuality (1992), London: Routledge Press

Parish, James Robert (2002) Hollywood Divas. The Good, the Bad, and the Fabulous. London: Contemporary Books

Bibliography recommended reading

Basinger, Jeanine (2009) The Star Machine, Vintage Books

Karlyn, Kathleen Rowe (2011) Unruly Girls, unrepentant Mothers, University of Texas Press

Kosta, Barbara (2009) Willing Seduction: The Blue Angel, Marlene Dietrich and Mass Culture, Berghahn Books

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