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Cinematic Representations of the Grotesque Female Body (Grotesque Body)
Start date: 01 Apr 2009, End date: 31 Mar 2011 PROJECT  FINISHED 

The proposed post-doctoral research project starts from the observation that the development and application of various ‘body technologies’ such as in vitro fertilisation, cosmetic surgery and genetic engineering are accompanied by a plethora of images of incomplete, multiplied, excessively fragmented and reassembled, as well as technologically altered and grossly deformed bodies surfacing in Art Cinema and Hollywood films alike. These images stand in sharp contrast to representations that reproduce and shape the bodily ideal through other widespread visual practices of mass-media. The project seeks to comparatively consider imaginations about transforming gender relations in light of technoscience. It is argued that these are articulated as well as generated by ideas about fragmentation and excessivity of the body. By introducing the concept of ‘the grotesque body’ (as proposed by Mikhail Bakhtin) to the debate on the body’s social significance, a case shall be made that the grotesque does not only concern itself with the disfigurement of the ‘glossy’ and aesthetically streamlined bodily ideal but rather signifies and questions collectively held core values of society in regard to gender identity as constituent for social continuity and transformation. In critical extension of Bakhtin’s argument, the proposed research aims at exploring the hypothesis that cinematic representations of female bodies beyond normative boundaries are symptomatic of two distinct yet interrelated processes: While the ubiquity of performing the grotesque body is indicative of rising uncertainties, tensions and contestations about imagined realities of technological changes, this phenomenon simultaneously expresses as well as organizes and produces collective images of resistance against a range of socially institutionalized norms and values. This hypothesis shall be addressed by combining hermeneutic approaches with semiotic and performative stances.
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