Mediated Masculinities: The Forms of Masculinity in American Genre Film, 1990-1999
McDonald, Terrance H.
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This dissertation mobilizes Brinkema's radical formalism (2014) through Deleuze and Spinoza to read masculinities as forms. Specifically, I closely read Western films and masculine crisis films from 1990 to 1999 to map how cinematic forms constitute the potential to alter normative modes of masculinity. To launch this endeavor, I rely on a theoretical hybrid of Brinkema-Deleuze-Spinoza that foregrounds genre films as vibrant forms of difference. This foregrounding unfolds through an engagement with Altman's theory of film genre (1999), Neale's work on genre films (2000), and Grant's view of film genres as iconography and ideology (2007) as well as the work of Deleyto (2012) and Herzog (2010 and 2012) to re-conceptualize film genre in relation to form. I proceed to use my theoretical hybrid and attention to forms to interrogate film theory as a means of seizing gender and, moreover, masculinities from discourses of representation and spectatorship, which tend to limit readings of gender and masculinities to socio-cultural and political meanings. This interrogation engages Mulvey's revision of screen theory (1975), Rodowick's work on difference (1991, 1994), Perkins's approach to mise-en-scène (1972), Bordwell's neo-formalism and post-theory (1996, 2005, 2006), Sobchack's phenomenological approach to spectatorship and affect (1992, 2004), and del Río's Deleuzian conceptualization of affect and performance (2008). Then, with an insistence on the close reading of cinematic forms, my dissertation undertakes two case studies: the Western and the masculine crisis film cycles of the 1990s. Considering the work of Gates (2006) and Grant (2011) on masculinities in popular cinema, my close readings reveal masculinities as taking shape, assuming structures, and forming as they affect and are affected by relations and becomings. These close readings of cinematic forms generate theoretical speculation that engages masculinities studies research, including Bly (1990), Connell (1995), Kimmel (2006 and 2013), Reeser (2010), and Buchbinder (2013). Through theoretical speculation, my dissertation conceptualizes masculinities as forces of creation that materialize as forms. What is at stake in this dissertation is a methodology that denies transcendent ideals and essentialist claims of masculinity with concepts that harness the potential to continuously read masculinities as what has yet to come.