Live Cultures: Illness, Mortality, and Masculinity in Contemporary Spanish Film

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Allbritton, Bobby D
The Graduate School, Stony Brook University: Stony Brook, NY.
"Live Cultures" explores the ways that democratic Spain has been understood, written, and filmed as an ill kingdom, and how illness as bodily effect is an ontology that affects our understanding of our discrete selves. To consider illness a dark geography, as Sontag wrote in Illness as Metaphor, begs a continual re-interpretation of the relation of self, body and nation, an understanding of healthy or ill citizenship as it is inscribe into the body. This politicized inscription does not function alone but in tandem with gender, considering the ways that illness in its most base function operates some effect on the body and mind, on the notion of self as whole, complete, and functioning. Likewise, masculinity, in its role as gender practice that adheres to some concept of the `body,' cannot be divorced from illness. I hold that illness is always already tied into masculinity, the two so fused together as to be inextricable. "Live Cultures" examines this fusion and its byproducts, those "sick masculinities" that are reconfigured as examples of national health, of organic space, and as carriers of contemporary violence in Spanish film. The introduction attempts to locate the germs of the project itself by beginning with Sontag's classic text in illness studies and continuing with Foucault's extensive work on illness as social event, and further on to more recent texts on illness as cultural, social, and gendered bodily effect. This project engages those texts that deal with the philosophical and political ramifications of illness, such as Adriana Cavarero's work on the perception of the political body or Elaine Scarry's Body in Pain, which is most closely interested in the representation of illness as metaphor. Live Cultures focuses on three such metaphors of illness in particular. In my first chapter, Hobbes's notion of the body politic is discussed in light of select contemporary Spanish films, utilizing the filmic treatment of the body to articulate a particular Spanish conceptualization of its own nationhood. This is seen effectively in the body of Javier Bardem, which serves to represent the stately body in both its exceptionalism and its ordinariness, its sickness and health, life and death--and in the interstices where these meet. In focusing on violence as virus, as ill contagion, my second chapter explores the metaphors that frame outpourings of contemporary violence as direct effects of cross-generational malaise. In an analysis of select films of Agust?Á Villaronga, I find this viral violence and its linkage to a concept of inevitable genetics to express a modern concern with the resurging traumas of the past. Finally, by studying a selection of recent films by Pedro Almod??var, my third chapter reads the queering of death and mourning as a way of reimagining the finalizing temporalities of normative time lines. Analyzing Almod??var's particular work with gender and death as touched by asynchronocity, I explore the reversal of the obliterating effects of death in favor of its productive capabilities, the creational aspects of death within life.
172 pg.