Masochism, masculinity and the crucifixion: The male -body -in -pain as redemptive figure

by Brintnall, Kent L., Ph.D., EMORY UNIVERSITY, 2007, 426 pages; 3279854


This dissertation argues that the figure of the male-body-in-pain enables a reading of the crucifixion as a repudiation of the dominant fiction of masculine subjectivity. As a corollary, it claims that the doctrine of the resurrection, understood as a moment in which the suffering male body is restored to wholeness, is an image that undermines the critical potential of the crucifixion. To illustrate these claims, the dissertation relies on a close analysis of contemporary visual representations of the male-body-in-pain—namely, the paintings of Francis Bacon, the photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe and the films of the Hollywood action genre. The chapter on Bacon focuses on his crucifixion paintings, his portraits of George Dyer and his wrestling/copulating figures. The chapter on Mapplethorpe focuses on his sadomasochistic imagery and his black nudes. The chapter on action films discusses the genre generally, with specific emphasis on the work of Mel Gibson. To establish a framework for discussing the visual artifacts, the dissertation opens with a close reading of psychoanalytic texts on masochism guided by the work of feminist film theorist Kaja Silverman. The final chapter compares the argument of the dissertation to the major proposals of Christian feminist theologians regarding incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection. The dissertation closes with a brief consideration of the work of Georges Bataille and its relation to the dissertation's central claims. The dissertation seeks to contribute to feminist theological discussions of the cross, the growing conversation between queer theory and Christian theology and the various disciplines that take visual artifacts as their subject.

AdviserMark D. Jordan
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsArt history; Theology; Film studies
Publication Number3279854

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