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Imagined geographies: women's negotiation of space in contemporary Australian cinema, 1988-98

Simpson, Catherine (2000) Imagined geographies: women's negotiation of space in contemporary Australian cinema, 1988-98. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Imagined Geographies: Women's Negotiation of Space in Contemporary Australian Cinema is an exploration of the nexus between gender and locale in films from the last decade, 1988-98. This thesis examines the way meaning is made through the negotiation of diverse geographies by central female protagonists in a selection of recent Australian feature films. The films I analyse were predominantly produced by female writers and/or directors.

In the context of Australian Cinema, locale is an area much talked about but little theorised. It is an issue which remains in the background of much scholarship and is often tangential to many arguments but rarely constructed as a central concern. Where it is foregrounded, as in Ross Gibson's work, it is reduced to the significance of landscape or 'natural locations' rather than examining the diversity of its manifestations.

Two notable but related spatial shifts have occurred in Australian cinema of the 1990s. The first is a change in industrial practice. Female artists are now creating spaces for themselves in mainstream feature filmmaking - spaces traditionally occupied by men. This trend is away from constructions of a distinctly feminist cinema or counter-cinema which was identifiable in the 1970s. Second, there is a shift in the character of on-screen space. The presence of growing numbers of women writers, directors and producers in the Australian film industry is shifting the cinema's focus away from traditional 'masculine' topographies - the pub, the prison and the outback - thus allowing explorations of other spaces and visions to develop. I am arguing therefore that there is a feminization ofspace occurring in Australian cinema.

In this thesis I investigate representations of so-called traditional 'feminine' or domestic domains. The place of the gendered body and embodiment in films is a central concern and is theorised in the first chapter. As we move through the thesis chapters, sexed bodies enacting gender in a variety of ways and in different zones - the car, the house, the suburb and the country town - will be explored. Through these analyses I examine the methods some film directors employ to problematize space in such a way that their work overcomes the limitations of its previously dominant representations. This thesis is primarily an attempt to open up the field of criticism to acknowledge the diversity of locales which exist within the rich tapestry of Australian Cinema.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Media, Communication and Culture
Supervisor(s): Donald, Stephanie
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