Oz Wide Shut: An Exploration of Gender and Master Narratives in Stanley Kubrick’s Final Film

by Caplinger, James C.

Abstract (Summary)
This study explores, through the application of complementarily balanced structuralist and hermeneutic methodologies, the question of whether Stanley Kubrick employed an androgynist perspective in the presentation of a dynamic polarity of gender roles in his final film, Eyes Wide Shut. Particular attention is paid to the use of a series of master narratives within the thematic, diegetic, and imagistic structure of the work. These master narratives are drawn from sources both literary and cinematic, and include: L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; Arthur Schnitzler’s Traumnovelle; the Homeric Hymn to Demeter; Ovid’s Metamorphoses; Aristophanes’ Myth of the Androgyne from the Symposium of Plato; and Victor Fleming and King Vidor’s The Wizard of Oz. The examination of the dynamic polarity of gender roles in Eyes Wide Shut focuses on how these roles are expressed through various modes of enunciation. These modes of enunciation include the following: personal, political, psychological, sexual, structural, and narrative. In relation to the first five of these enunciative modes, the film is considered as a series of events that constitute “statements” about gender, which have been set into a dialectical form. Each “statement” about gender roles made in the film’s first half is then given an antithetical response in the film’s second half. In the case of the final mode of enunciation, the narrative, a masculinized, verbal diegesis (denotative references to Schnitzler’s Traumnovelle) is set in place over a feminized, imagistic subtext (connotative allusions to Fleming/Vidor’s The Wizard of Oz); so that the interpenetration of the masculine with the feminine takes place moment by moment as the works narrative structure unfolds. Important themes which impact this study concerning the continuum of the feminine experience from youth to maturity are raised in the master narrative of the Homeric Hymn to Demeter; while a masculinized theme of the quest of man to retrieve, or fail to retrieve, his feminine side, is examined in the “Story of Orpheus and Eurydice” from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The balancing of the dynamic polarity of gender roles is considered in light of Aristophanes’ Myth of the Androgyne from the Symposium of Plato. The intertwining of these master narratives is observed in light of their “transcendental textuality”, or “transtextuality”, as it is termed by Girard Genette; while the political and teleological implications of gender roles are considered, respectively, in relation to certain ideas of Roland Barthes and Aleksei Fyodorovich Losev. Finally, the authorial presence in Eyes Wide Shut, and its implications in terms of Kubrick’s handling of gender roles, is reflected upon through the use of the intersubjective approach of Georges Poulet.
Bibliographical Information:


School:Ohio University

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:the wizard of oz eyes wide shut gender roles master narratives stanley kubrick film studies


Date of Publication:01/01/2004

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