Anna May Wong, Piccadilly

The Purposes of Love: Romance in Two British Films of the Late Silent Period

Lecture by Laura Mulvey
Thursday, April 8, 2010 - 4:30pm

Laura Mulvey’s lecture will draw upon two British films from the very end of the silent era to reflect on differing representations of femininity and class. Both are about transgressive love and a modernity that enables their female protagonists to cross, if only temporarily, traditional British class boundaries. But while Hindle Wakes, set in a Northern industrial milieu and adapted from Stanley Houghton’s Ibsen inspired play, remains within a realist register, Piccadilly, scripted by Arnold Bennett and devised as a vehicle for Anna May Wong, depends on melodrama to deal with an affair that is inter-racial as well as trans-class.

Laura Mulvey is the 2010 Schaffner Visiting Professor in Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago, and a celebrated scholar who has stimulated debate in academe and the art world for more than 30 years. After studying history at St. Hilda's, Oxford University, she came to prominence in the early 1970s as a film theorist, writing for periodicals such as Spare Rib and Seven Days. Much of her early critical work investigated questions of spectatorial identification and its relationship to the male gaze, and her writings, particularly the 1975 essay Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, helped establish feminist film theory as a legitimate field of study.

Between 1974 and 1982 Mulvey co-wrote and co-directed with her husband, Peter Wollen, several films on feminist theory, semiotics, psychoanalysis and leftist politics. Ms. Mulvey’s profound influence on the way in which we look at art, film, gender and national perspectives, has been inspirational to many—as have her pioneering cross-disciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches.

Cosponsored by The Nicholson Center for British Studies.