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Women's Experimental Cinema: Critical Frameworks

edited by Robin Blaetz
contributions by Melissa Ragona, Paul Arthur, Christine Holmlund and Noel Carroll

Duke University Press, 2007


Paper: 978-0-8223-4044-7

eISBN: 978-0-8223-9208-8

OA eISBN: 978-1-4780-9144-8

Cloth: 978-0-8223-4023-2

About the Book
Women’s Experimental Cinema provides lively introductions to the work of fifteen avant-garde women filmmakers, some of whom worked as early as the 1950s and many of whom are still working today. In each essay in this collection, a leading film scholar considers a single filmmaker, supplying biographical information, analyzing various influences on her work, examining the development of her corpus, and interpreting a significant number of individual films. The essays rescue the work of critically neglected but influential women filmmakers for teaching, further study, and, hopefully, restoration and preservation. Just as importantly, they enrich the understanding of feminism in cinema and expand the terrain of film history, particularly the history of the American avant-garde.

The contributors examine the work of Marie Menken, Joyce Wieland, Gunvor Nelson, Yvonne Rainer, Carolee Schneemann, Barbara Rubin, Amy Greenfield, Barbara Hammer, Chick Strand, Marjorie Keller, Leslie Thornton, Abigail Child, Peggy Ahwesh, Su Friedrich, and Cheryl Dunye. The essays highlight the diversity in these filmmakers’ forms and methods, covering topics such as how Menken used film as a way to rethink the transition from abstract expressionism to Pop Art in the 1950s and 1960s, how Rubin both objectified the body and investigated the filmic apparatus that enabled that objectification in her film Christmas on Earth (1963), and how Dunye uses film to explore her own identity as a black lesbian artist. At the same time, the essays reveal commonalities, including a tendency toward documentary rather than fiction and a commitment to nonhierarchical, collaborative production practices. The volume’s final essay focuses explicitly on teaching women’s experimental films, addressing logistical concerns (how to acquire the films and secure proper viewing spaces) and extending the range of the book by suggesting alternative films for classroom use.

Contributors. Paul Arthur, Robin Blaetz, Noël Carroll, Janet Cutler, Mary Ann Doane, Robert A. Haller, Chris Holmlund, Chuck Kleinhans, Scott MacDonald, Kathleen McHugh, Ara Osterweil, Maria Pramaggiore, Melissa Ragona, Kathryn Ramey, M. M. Serra, Maureen Turim, William C. Wees

About the Author

Robin Blaetz is Associate Professor and Chair of the Film Studies Program at Mount Holyoke College. She is the author of Visions of the Maid: Joan of Arc in American Film and Culture.

Women’s Experimental Cinema is an invaluable resource for students and devotees of experimental cinema and feminist film, fields defined by remarkable films and a dearth of critical attention. It brings to light the social and political roots and cultural impact of women’s experimental film, and the specific female, feminine, and feminist practices of an exceptional group of women artists.”—Alexandra Juhasz, editor of Women of Vision: Histories in Feminist Film and Video

“This definitive volume on U.S. women’s experimental cinema fills a significant and long-lamented gap within film studies, and in feminist film studies in particular. Together, these essays offer us a richly nuanced picture not only of women’s experimental film but of avant-garde filmmaking in general from the 1940s to the present.”—Sharon Willis, author of High Contrast: Race and Gender in Contemporary Hollywood Film

“A truly remarkable collection on feminist independent cinema, this is one of the most comprehensive and well thought out books on the subject to appear to date. . . . [T]he book moves from strength to strength to create a collection that is as cohesive as it is authoritative. . . . Well illustrated with behind-the-scenes production shots and frame blow ups from the films themselves, and written by some of the most gifted critics working in the field today, this collection is both deeply felt and rigorously detailed. Essential. All readers, all levels.”

-- W. W. Dixon Choice

Women's Studies, History & Criticism, Performing Arts, History and criticism, United States, Social Science
Open Access Information

License: CC BY-NC-ND 4.0