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Centring the female: the articulation of female experience in the films of Jane Campion


Centring the female: the articulation of female experience in the films of Jane Campion
Lisa French


College of Design and Social Context, RMIT University (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology), Melbourne VIC 3000, AUSTRALIA.


This thesis is a study of female authorship that examines the feature films of Jane Campion in order to determine how her preoccupation with the cinematic articulation of 'female experience' is expressed in her films.

The work of Jane Campion was chosen as an appropriate study to investigate whether female experience can be aestheticised, and to discover whether her gender can be discerned through the films of a woman director.

The exploration of these ideas entails a review of the body of feminist thinking, methodologies and epistemologies that are relevant to cinema, and that examine relevant theoretical positions within feminism and theories of cinematic authorship. The key lens employed here for theorising Campion’s cinema is that of postmodern-feminism. As an approach, this allows an understanding of difference rather than ‘Otherness’, and an enquiry into gender that is neither essentialist nor constructionist, but facilitates critical thinking about both positions.

This methodology emerged through an analysis of Campion’s film work, which revealed that she has been significantly influenced by, and interested in, both feminism and postmodernism. While all her films are considered here, her texts Holy Smoke! and In the Cut are the main focus.

The central argument of this thesis is that Campion’s film practice functions as an investigation into gender difference, how women and men live together in the world, how women experience that world, and how women are engendered as female through historic, psychological and cultural experiences. This thesis therefore argues that Campion’s aesthetic and perspective is not only feminist, but also, female, and feminine, and her work a cinematic articulation of female experience.