Help me write my essay about Francesca Woodman
July 26, 2014 3:39 PM   Subscribe

I am working on an essay about the photographer Francesca Woodman to submit for consideration to an anthology. My main argument is that Woodman's work playfully subverts the script of normative femininity (especially her use of nudity). I have done a lot of reading/viewing on Woodman herself, but I am looking for other texts (and other media is welcome too) that might be helpful.

The biggest gap in my research is that I have been unable to find good readings about the nature of being high femme. I've gotten some queer theory texts on this and gone through my Judith Butler, but nothing has been on point so far. I want readings about how it can be strategic or subversive for women to employ traditional femininity/girlyness/beauty in their lives or their art or both. Can you think of any writings about this?

I have found some good essays on nudity as protest (including one really good essay about political streaking!), but I am still open to more readings. I had a hard time researching nudity on databases because I couldn't seem to find the right keywords to bring up a manageable result pool.

Finally, I am considering the nature of the self-portrait (because FW did so many). I am aware of other photographers who've used self-portraits (namely Cindy Sherman and Nan Goldin), but I have yet to find any intriguing critical theory essays about the self-portrait conceptually.

If you have suggestions for readings or other media to seek out on these topics (or anything else you think is relevant to my essay), please do comment or message me. Thank you!
posted by mermaidcafe to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Which databases are you using here? I'm really surprised that you've found no "intriguing critical theory essays about the self-portrait conceptually." It's pretty well-trod ground, particularly given more recent work on the selfie.
posted by liketitanic at 3:42 PM on July 26, 2014

I've been searching through all the databases on EBSCOHost so far, which yielded results (though naturally I didn't read the full text of all of them) but didn't see anything that seemed immediately relevant. That said, since you seem familiar with the topic, can you remember any that stand out for you?
posted by mermaidcafe at 4:06 PM on July 26, 2014

Earlier artists you could look at are Florence Henri, Maya Deren and Claude Cahun. Those last two are in this book alongside Sherman. All are famous for their film/photo self-portraiture. This article mentions a bunch more early female photographers to look into, though many in that article are more photojournalists than artists. If you have an art school near you, I'd go to their library and ask a librarian. There is LOTS out there on self-portraiture and gender expression, art school librarians would probably be the people most equipped to help you navigate it.

I agree there is some area needing to be covered on the topic of high femme gender performance/strategic femininity, at least in an academic context (there's lots on the internet!). Maybe this book but I haven't read it.
posted by 100kb at 5:05 PM on July 26, 2014

I've actually already read Inverted Odysseys and the Brazen Femme book you link to. Brazen Femme is actually quite unacademic, imo, and I haven't found much useful in it.
posted by mermaidcafe at 12:33 PM on July 27, 2014

There is a documentary on Netflix Instant about the Woodmans (called The Woodmans).

JIC it's helpful.
posted by Fister Roboto at 1:14 PM on July 27, 2014

Seen it! Thanks. :)
posted by mermaidcafe at 1:27 PM on July 27, 2014

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