Screen Women: Body Narratives in Popular American Film

Spring: Thursdays, 6 – 9 PM / 2.4.10 – 5.13.10

The cinematic body of the woman has long been the central focus for theories of spectatorship, psychoanalytic film theory as well as feminist media and cultural studies. As such it provides rich material for an interdisciplinary conversation not only about socio-cultural and psychological constructions of gender, sexualities, and power but also about the pathologies of body disturbances and eating disorders which have become increasingly prevalent among women and girls. Using popular film and related media as our texts this course will investigate “hot button” issues in contemporary discourses about women’s embodiments in cinematic images of excessive mothering, adolescent sexuality, obesity and diet culture, transformative surgery and body makeovers, and gender reassignment in order to answer the following question: how are contemporary debates surrounding the body both reflected in, and informed by, popular culture representations? Students can expect to come away from the class with a deeper understanding of the cultural influences that shape media products and familiarity with feminist and feminist media theory as it relates to the topic of embodiment and body image.


Emily Fox-Kales is a clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders and body disturbances in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. She also is on the faculty of Northeastern University where she teaches film, gender and cultural studies in the Cinema Studies program. She has served as Film Editor of the journal Gender & Psychoanalysis and published on psycho-social narratives of the woman’s body. Her new book is Body Shots: Hollywood and the Culture of Eating Disorders (2011).

Suzanne Leonard is Assistant Professor of English at Simmons College, where she co-coordinates the minor in Cinema and Media Studies. Her specialties include film and media studies, feminist theory, and women’s literature, and her articles have appeared in Genders and Women’s Studies Quarterly, and in various anthologies including Interrogating Postfeminism: Gender and the Politics of Popular Culture (Duke UP, 2007). Her book on Fatal Attraction (2009) is the inaugural text in Wiley-Blackwell’s series, Studies in Film and Television.

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Consortium for Graduate Studies in Gender, Culture, Women, and Sexuality
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 14N-211
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
Phone: 617-324-2085