Crossing Over with Tilda Swinton (ENGL 31241)
Reading and Viewing List
Jackie Stacey, EAC
Block 1: From Androgyny to Transgender
Films to view: Orlando, Female Perversions, The Stars (Are Out Tonight)
This first section of the course will examine Swinton’s performance of gender and sexuality through an analysis of feminist and queer theories of subversion, masquerade and transformation. Engaging with critical texts in feminist and queer theory (B. Ruby Rich, Judith Butler, Judith Halberstam, Mary Ann Doane, Amelia Jones and Lizbeth Goodman) this section of the course will introduce students to debates about gendered narratives, sexual performativities and constructions of femininity and masculinity as genre and myth.
Block 2: Affect and Interiority
Films to view: The Deep End, Thumbsucker, I am Love, We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Maybe
This second block of the course will approach Swinton’s work in relation to myths and fantasies about the woman’s body as the site of sensation and emotionality. In dialogue with the debates about the history of women’s genres (such as the maternal melodrama) in mainstream cinema, we shall examine the place of affect and interiority in Swinton’s work. Read through current queer debates about affect (Ann Cvetkovich, Robyn Wiegman) and about paranoid and reparative reading practices (Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick), this block of the course will examine Swinton’s performance style in relation to the expression of affect and the implication of feminine interiority that has been long debated in feminist film theory.
Block 3: Collaborations and Contexts
Films to view: The Last of England; Edward II; Blue; Derek
This part of the course pushes students to consider a less individualised reading of Swinton, by emphasising her collaborations and shared interventions. Taking case studies of those named above, these sessions will explore the lack of literature on colloborative cultural practices and test new models for reading Swinton beyond conventional star studies. 1980s Thatcherism will provide a context for the work with Jarman in order to approach the methodological limits of academic practices of ‘contextualisation’; the disappearance of venues for screening art films will provide the ‘context’ for studying Swinton’s collaborations with Cousins, such as ‘The Pilgrimage’ and Ballerina Ballroom, Cinema of Dreams’).
Block 4: Non-human/other worldly
Teknolust; The Chronicles of Narnia; Possible Worlds; Constantine;
This final section of the course will examine Swinton’s capacity to embody the non-human, the technological and the animal. It examines critical readings that emphasise the ‘other worldliness’ of her performances and relates these to debates about imitation, impersonation and masquerade with which the course will begin. Embedding these readings of Swinton’s ‘deviant’ embodiments in changing modes of technological mediation, the course will conclude by contrasting claims about liveness and authenticity with Swinton’s performance of new digital genetic transformations of the biological body.
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Butler, Alison, Women’s Cinema: The Contested Screen (London: Wallflower Press,
Butler, Judith, Gender Trouble (London: Routledge 2000)
Doane, Mary Ann, Femme Fatales (London: Routledge 1991)
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Julien, Isaac and others, Derek Jarman: Brutal Beauty (London: Koenig Books, 2008)
Potter, Sally, Naked Cinema: Working with Actors (London: Faber and Faber,
Rich, B. Ruby, New Queer Cinema: The Director's Cut (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013)
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V&A Network, (2013) <http://www.vam.ac.uk/b/blog/va-network/tilda-swintons-dinner-speech-opening-david-bowie?sf10717152=1> [Accessed 21 November 2013]
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