Video Narratives and the Construction of the Female Subject


This thesis is concerned with the construction of the female subject through video narratives. Its theoretical foundation is Laura Mulvey’s essay ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’, which uses psychoanalysis to reveal how the patriarchal unconscious produces a system of representation that privileges the male subject and proves detrimental for the female subject. This thesis analyses and challenges that system’s formal conditions in order to establish a new set of conditions in which the female subject can be constructed within video narratives. In response to Mulvey’s analysis of the structures of looking and narrative in the cinema, cinematic conventions are analysed with a particular focus on the distribution and form of the point-of-view shot. Two video narratives contribute to knowledge in their demonstration of how formal cinematic conventions can be transformed to create new conditions in which the female subject can be constructed. The videos propose alternative modes of looking, positing haptic visuality encouraged by the use of haptic images and installation, as a supplement to the conventional optical visuality of cinema. A curious, epistemophilic look is analysed and suggested as an alternative to the vouyeuristic-scopophilic look identified by Mulvey. Relationships between mainstream narrative cinema and video are brought into view, whilst the historical context of video is analysed in terms of politics and technologies relevant to the practice. Recent video and video installation in the gallery is analysed with a focus on works key to this project. Mulvey’s essay proposed a practical destruction of visual pleasure in order to challenge the oppressive cinematic form. This project demonstrates that visual pleasure need not be destroyed in order to construct a female subject, if mobilising the conditions laid out here and that video installation in particular can create a pleasurable spatial experience.

The full thesis can be accessed via the British Library's online service: or contact Angela Halliday directly.