Queer(ing) Film Phenomenology
This paper provides a queer engagement with the (relatively) recent re-turn to corporeality and embodiment within film studies. Drawing on phenomenological approaches to cinema (i.e., Barker, 2009; Marks 2000; Sobchack, 2004), on debates around cinema and appropriation/queering (i.e., White, 1999), as well as on queer critiques of traditional phenomenology (i.e., Ahmed, 2006), I will argue that the queer viewing experience is usefully understood in embodied terms. Specifically, and with particular reference to Girlfight (Kusama, US, 2000), I will propose ways of thinking through the ‘lesbian appeal’ of certain female sports films, by accounting for the ways in which differently gendered (and raced) subjectivities are situated, embodied and ‘lived’.
As such, this paper not only points to ways of understanding the appropriative viewing experience in more fully embodied terms by exploring the ‘sensuous trajectory’ of the film. It also opens up possibilities for addressing questions around lesbian representability from a phenomenological perspective, by highlighting how lesbianism might be articulated in ways that makes ‘sense’ to lesbian viewers in relation to their embodied histories and memories, and in relation to their everyday experiences of ‘living a lesbian life’ (Munt, 1998).
The paper also points, more generally, to the ways in which contemporary debates around cinema and embodiment, as well as debates around appropriation and ‘queering’, might benefit from the insights provided by feminist, gender and queer studies critiques of traditional phenomenology, in order to provide more comprehensive, as well as specific, accounts of our various encounters with cinema.
Ahmed, S. (2006). Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others. London: Duke University Press.
Barker, J. (2009). The Tactile Eye: Touch and the Cinematic Experience. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Munt, S. (1998). Heroic Desire: Lesbian Identity and Cultural Space. London: Cassell.
White, P. (1999). Uninvited: Classical Hollywood Cinema and Lesbian Representability. Bloomington: Indiana University Press