Rethinking Film Bodies: Beyond Gender, Genre, and Excess

deadline for submissions:
August 10, 2017
full name / name of organization:
SCMS, Toronto–March 14-18, 2018
contact email:

Over a quarter of a century ago, Linda Williams’ groundbreaking “Film Bodies: Gender, Genre, and Excess” was published in Film Quarterly. Her seminal article not only brought together distinct areas of film studies (genre criticism, spectatorial response, taste cultures, gender and sexuality, emotion and sensation in cinema) that are still highly relevant today, but also theoretical frameworks that have traditionally been kept separate. Although grounded in a psychoanalytic model for understanding structures of desire, fantasy, and identification, Williams’ essay at the same time marked a turning point towards a corpus of scholarship that is more attuned to and engaged with the embodied film-viewing experience.

We propose returning to “Film Bodies” in light of the exponentially growing scholarly thought on and through horror, pornography, and melodrama in the past twenty years, as well as a renewed interest in the problematics of materiality, perception, feeling and sensation in the wake of the affective turn. We want to explore the ways Williams’ essay still influences current theoretical debates while taking into account more recent perspectives on these—and other—body genres and advances in a number of approaches (cognitivist, phenomenological, affective, and psychoanalytic). As these schools of thought become increasingly polarized, if not antagonistic, we ask if there is a way to combine their insights into a more encompassing critical methodology to open up new avenues of inquiry for film theory.

Proposal topics could include but are not limited to:

Critical work in horror, porn, and melodrama in conversation with Williams
Or additional “body” genres that she doesn’t discuss
The problem of “grossness” or sensationalism and/as excess
In excess of what? Should we see emotion and sensation as gratuitous?
The materiality of the bodily reactions, secretions, and fluids as a basis for genre criticism
Affective and embodied viewing practices that highlight the role of our and the films’ “bodies”
Spectatorial identification and fantasy along/across/against (?) strictly gender lines
Masochistic or sadistic viewing pleasures
Moving beyond a psychoanalytic model for desire and fantasy
Feminist film theory in the wake of Williams’ insights
Should we also rethink her models of gender difference and desire as political acts?
Distinctions (or lack thereof) between high and low genres and their capacity for political action/criticism
Hybrid theoretical approaches—combining genre theory, psychoanalysis, affect studies or other methodologies

Please send abstract (ca. 300 words) plus bibliography (3–5 entries) and author bio (50–100 words) to Dewey Musante and Ella Tucan at Deadline is August 10, 2017; those chosen will hear back by August 14. Proposal forms due to panel organizers by August 21 if chosen.