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June 1993

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Sender:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Subject:
From:
Cary Alan Nathenson <[log in to unmask]>
Date:
Fri, 4 Jun 1993 00:28:03 -0500
Reply-To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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My local art house is showing _WIDE SARGASSO SEA_ (sorry, I can't remember
who directed it).  After 90 mins. of lushly filtered stereotypes and $4.00
poorer, I was left wanting to do something with my disappointment.  My
main area of research is German literature and in the course of my work
I've looked at 19th century poems about encounters between male figures
and mermaids.  I discussed these poems in relation to Max Horkheimer's and
Theodor Adorno's _THE DIALECTIC OF THE ENLIGHTENMENT_ and Klaus
Theweleit's _MALE FANTASYS_, which attempt to show how male authors have
portrayed "nature" as feminine, repressing their female figures in the
name of progress and civilization.
In the film, an Englishman comes to 19th century Jamaica for an arranged
marriage with a mixed-race woman and her money.  After briefly
experiencing the personal and sexual liberation in the tropical atmosphere
(a "must" event in this type of text), he grows to feel threatened by both
his wife's independence and his distance from English civil order.  A
fantasy sequence of the man entangled in a web of seaweed is repeated
throughout the film.  His solution is to force his wife back to England
with him, where he proceeds to lock her away in the attic, claiming she is
now insane.
I'd be interested in comments about other filmic representations of such a
civilization/nature-woman conflict, especially if anyone knows of films
where the repression of desire isn't the outcome.  I suspect that this is
rarely accomplished without the male figure abandoning his subjectivity.
Any takers?
 
Cary    [log in to unmask]

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