Feminine Look

Sexuation, Spectatorship, Subversion

By Jennifer Friedlander

Subjects: Psychoanalysis, Art Theory, Film Studies, Women's Studies, Critical Theory
Series: SUNY series in Psychoanalysis and Culture, SUNY series, Insinuations: Philosophy, Psychoanalysis, Literature
Paperback : 9780791472965, 149 pages, January 2009
Hardcover : 9780791472958, 149 pages, January 2008

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Feminist and psychoanalytic analysis of spectatorship.


Feminine Look shows how the Lacanian concept of sexuation makes possible a new account of the relationship among feminism, psychoanalysis, and spectatorship. Whereas previous studies have tended to ask how spectatorship may be influenced by sexual difference, Jennifer Friedlander asks how particular spectatorial encounters may engender different "sexuated" responses. In so doing, she traces a fresh path through Freud's account of the relationship between visual perception and sexual difference and rereads Freud's fable of castration anxiety, suggesting that sexual identity arises as a response to the symbolic order's indifference to the subject's need for a solid identity. She examines provocative and controversial artistic images by Jamie Wagg, Marcus Harvey, and Sally Mann to demonstrate how images not only create and embody social practices but also precipitate viewer anxieties and pleasures.

Jennifer Friedlander is Edgar E. and Elizabeth S. Pankey Professor of Media Studies and Assistant Professor of Art History at Pomona College.


"Feminine Look continuously retells and (re)explores several theories as Friedlander employs them to contrast the inscribed and approved methods of late twentieth-century scholarly work on sexuation and spectatorship, and as she explores her conceptualization and subversion of these theories she suggests a new politics of the image as well as a new theoretical approach. Her examples, spectacular images, smooth argument, and well-based theoretical background make her second book a novel contribution to film, visual, and cultural studies alike. " — Hungarian Journal of English and American Studies

"Blending very sophisticated psychoanalytic theory with some novel and yet important visual-media texts, Friedlander makes a strong contribution to the field of feminist visual-media theory and female spectatorship by returning to its origins in Lacanian studies. By reinvestigating the role Lacan played in those studies—vis-à-vis Freud, Saussure, and Barthes—she creates a playful new space for contemplating the gendered look. She also offers a theoretical account of how contemporary photography and other technological 'gaze' media represent gendered images through unconscious and linguistic devices. " — Laura Hinton, author of The Perverse Gaze of Sympathy: Sadomasochistic Sentiments from Clarissa to Rescue 911