August 22, 2011

Freedom, Power, and the Control of Women in "Vertigo"

John (Jay) Steinmetz, University of Oregon, has published 'They Had the Power and the Freedom': A Genealogy of Patriarchal Violence in Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo as an APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper. Here is the abstract.

The control of women is at the center of Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, a misogyny of domination that is easily apparent. Less apparent in previous literature on Vertigo is the connection to a history of violence against women that threads through key scenes, where the expression "the freedom and the power" is spoken by the wife-murderer Gavin Elster, an authority on San Francisco history, and John "Scottie" Ferguson, who stalks and obsesses over what becomes three women: Madeleine Elster, Carlotta Valdez, and Judy Barton. The freedom and the power is something men once had, but they are slowly losing it, and there emerges the paranoia, the real vertigo. This phrase and its connotation, that of controlling women, connects both freedom and power to the mechanisms of patriarchy. One such mechanism in Vertigo is the deployment, in Foucaultian terms, of a myth: that Carlotta Valdez, thrown away by a rich man nearly 100 years ago, haunts Gavin Elster's wife Madeleine. This myth, the spurned woman, covers up the darker violence underneath, that of uxoricide. Foucault's repressive hypothesis, a deployment in discourse on the freedom and power of sexuality, can be mapped onto the myth of Carlotta Valdez and the killing of women that lies below its surface.
Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

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