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From Women’s Cinema to Women’s Horror Cinema: Genre and Gender in the Twenty-First Century

Lupher, Sonia (2020) From Women’s Cinema to Women’s Horror Cinema: Genre and Gender in the Twenty-First Century. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation addresses the shift from one fundamental genre in feminist film history (melodrama) to a contemporary one (horror), arguing that genre is a crucial tool for reconsidering women’s cinema. I demonstrate how women’s horror cinema in the twenty-first century bears the legacies of both feminist film history and horror film history by arguing that the lineage of women’s cinema is visible in women’s horror cinema, where these filmmakers use horror to consciously engage the codes and conventions of non-horror genres. Prior to the year 2000, women working in horror were less numerous and far less acknowledged for their contribution to the genre than afterward. In 2020, there are at least 700 active female horror directors working globally; most of their films have yet to be addressed in the field of film and media studies. I utilize this fresh material to argue that women-directed horror cinema offers a concrete, textual basis for analyzing how women’s spectatorship of horror and feminist cinema looks and functions. In turn, I theorize that women-directed horror films reflect intersectional spectator positions that women have long embodied and that horror enables them to articulate in innovative ways.

Feminist film theory in the 1970s and 1980s and the surge of critical attention to women directors in this period are vital precursors to an emerging discourse around women-directed horror. As such, my dissertation pairs women’s horror cinema and festival programming between 2000-2020 alongside films and events important to earlier feminist film theory. This methodology reveals an ongoing dialogue elucidating issues long important to women that are now emerging in women’s horror cinema. Chapters one, two, and three read select texts of twenty-first century women’s horror cinema alongside key texts of melodrama, experimental film, and comedy, three genres historically important to feminist theorists and filmmakers. Chapter four utilizes ethnographic fieldwork and archival research to explore the niche phenomenon of women’s horror film festivals as critical exhibition spaces that facilitate the roles that female filmmakers and programmers of women’s horror cinema play in redefining the limits of horror.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Lupher, Soniasll63@pitt.edusll63
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairLowenstein, Adamalowen@pitt.edualowen
Committee MemberFischer, Lucylfischer@pitt.edulfischer
Committee MemberMajumdar, Neepanmajumda@pitt.edunmajumda
Committee MemberPettersen, Davidpettersen@pitt.edupettersen
Date: 16 September 2020
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 22 June 2020
Approval Date: 16 September 2020
Submission Date: 7 July 2020
Access Restriction: 1 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 1 year.
Number of Pages: 232
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Film Studies
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: film studies, women's cinema, horror, women artists, feminist film theory
Date Deposited: 16 Sep 2020 14:34
Last Modified: 16 Sep 2021 05:15


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