Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Ashley Atkins, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

James Martin, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

David Paul, M.A.


Feminism, film studies, Lacan, psychoanalysis, the gaze

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


This essay presents a feminist psychoanalytic approach to the cinematic gaze which employs late Lacanian film theory in order to construct a conception of the gaze that allows for its political significance to emerge. The gaze is hereby understood as something that the subject (the spectator) encounters in the object (the film) and, also, as what constitutes the epitome of the cinematic experience. It is regarded as being inherently political, existing within the realm of the Lacanian real in the form of an objet petit a (or object-cause of desire), and exhibiting itself in the world(s) of fantasy and/or desire. Todd McGowan’s analysis of four different filmic deployments of the gaze in terms of how it relates to the world of fantasy in The Real Gaze: Film Theory After Lacan will be thoroughly examined, yet not in order to establish the unique four ways in which the gaze can present itself in film. Instead, starting from a number of compelling remarks in McGowan’s work, my intent is to provide the reader not with a delineation of what the gaze is or a strict methodology of what it ought to be, but instead with a number of conceptual tools which can be of assistance in demystifying the political character of the gaze and in locating its distinct function in each different film. Lastly, I argue that in order for a conception of the gaze to accurately represent the cinematic experience as it is to be observed in the existing patriarchal social order, it needs to take into account the question of gender. Precisely, I provide a critique of the male gaze as the –historically as well as presently– dominant yet most destructive cinematic perspective to propose that in order to transcend the current restricting cinematic framework, we should strive towards a more feminist and less gendered cinema.