Female Voice and Agency in Film Adaptations

  • Coral Houtman

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis examines the claim that women write differently from men, and employs a methodology which compares a range of film adaptations with the books from which they are taken.

    The thesis explores the agency and voice of four novels and their film adaptations, 1 using techniques derived from narrative analysis where "the implied author" is the agency responsible for the overall relationship of narration (story telling) to narrative (story) and is also the "voice" - the rhetoric of the text. Psychoanalysis forms a conceptual framework for exploring the performance of sexual difference in these works authored by women, but directed by men, and for investigating psychological thrillers, where issues of sexuality and desire are dramatised, particularly in relationship to death and the fear of obliteration. The thesis considers the 'gendering' of the texts - how they construe sexual difference, through fantasy and through desire. Lacan's discourse analysis enables a further investigation of the possibilities of hysterical agency driving the narrative; anxiety and uncertainty over gender and sexual difference driving the needs of the characters and the narration, and therefore, by implication, the real author or authors.

    It also discusses whether this hysteria is performed differently by men and women, due to their different subject positions, and thereby creates a potential link between the implied author of the text, and the gender of the real author(s).

    The real author, the agent of the text, cannot, in this formulation, be regarded as either sovereign or unified. Rather, I theorise, following Althusser and the performative theory of Judith Butler, that authorial voice is an interpellation. That is, they are called up and placed into a network of norms and parameters where they assume the agency of authorship.

    Agency is therefore contingent and traumatic, and a text which creates a less causal and individualistic performance of narrative agency might also be able to explore the relationship of gender and sexual difference to agency without slipping into the Freudian flaw of making anatomy destiny. I consider Mrs. Dalloway, as a poetic, non-linear form, a multi-voiced and multi-determined narrative, which creates a very rich female portrait of its central protagonist and a selfconsciously female narrative voice. In addressing the traumas and hysterias of sexual difference, and relating them to the analogous traumas created through the abuse of power in other realms of life, Mrs. Dalloway provides an alternative way of thinking about sexual difference, gender and agency, one that privileges creativity, reparation and the need to come to terms with trauma, whether one is male or female.
    Date of Award1 Mar 2003
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Kent

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