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Gender Meets Genre in Postwar Cinemas$
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Christine Gledhill

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780252036613

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252036613.001.0001

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Private Femininity, Public Femininity

Private Femininity, Public Femininity

Tactical Aesthetics in the Costume Film

(p.96) Chapter 7 Private Femininity, Public Femininity
Gender Meets Genre in Postwar Cinemas

Samiha Matin

University of Illinois Press

This chapter examines the contemporary costume film's unique interrelationship of femininity and privacy by focusing on how the historical constraints of privacy force the post-feminist heroine to make herself anew as a feminine subject. It uses the two poles of privacy and publicness to organize relationships between gender, feeling, time, aesthetics, and identity, worked through and re-envisioned by costume films for present-day viewers. By these means, the values of privacy and publicness are recalibrated to accommodate a mutable femininity that uses aesthetics and feeling as creative methods of adaptation. The heroine's process of identity construction consists of tests, experiments, and play with self-presentation to find and utilize the sanctioned meanings and covert privileges afforded by femininity. In reassembling elements of gender and galvanizing their force to new ends, spaces for covert resistance and pressure-release emerge. This course is one of “tactical aesthetics,” or the deployment of style to access power which makes use of gendered acts, expressions, dress, and etiquette to design new advantages. To explore this concept, the chapter analyzes two films, Elizabeth (1997) and Marie Antoinette (2006), as divergent visions of femininity.

Keywords:   costume films, femininity, privacy, Elizabeth, Marie Antoinette, gender, identity construction

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