Notes: A4

Following a helpful email from my tutor, Micheal Belshaw, yesterday, in response to some questions I asked about critical writing I have a clearer idea about what/how I shall be writing for A4. I asked to clarify the difference between formal analysis and interpretative analysis. He replied, “formal analysis is concerned with the way something looks according to a recognised vocabulary. Interpretation is concerned with meaningful connections (not to be confused with what something means). Ideally interpretation is built on formal analysis.” (Belshaw, 2016)

Additionally, I have looked at the difference between descriptive and critical writing on a page from Leicester University, where everything is laid out clearly and succinctly. I write too descriptively even when I think I’m not doing so. So, my aim should be for more critique, less description although that is still required to some degree.

For A4 we must write a 2000 word essay referring to one or more topics covered in Section 4, analysing and critiquing a visual culture text. The title of the assignment is Visualising the Other. I will be writing about Isabelle Mège’s 30 year project where she has collaborated with fine art photographers, creating a body of work, all portraits of her. See more here –

Things to consider:

Portraits and self portraits  – history, ‘recognised vocabulary’

Death of an Author – Barthes

Gendering the gaze,  Mège has made use of the male gaze, literally in many cases, although we have established that the male gaze is operative regardless of the gaze owner’s gender – the male gaze is in fact an object, a lens, through which we view things and perceive reality

Does Mège invite  (or incite as the predictive text suggested) viewers to look, observe or survey her?

Identity – (Lacan, mirror stage)

Women artists – Is Mège an artist?

Ways of Seeing – Berger, I’ve not started reading Hélène Cisoux, Luce Irigaray or Julia Kristeva, three influential feminist philosophers all still working, but I am sure something of what they say can/should be included about the female body as Other. Irigaray’s Speculum of the Other Women is on order so perhaps I will be able to include some of what she has to say. I know this is her early work but I feel I ought to start at the beginning. Anyway, Freud and Lacan need to be considered, I’m sure. And castration or lack. (Philosopher Slavoj Žižek is helpful on this whole castration metaphor but I need to watch this again before commenting

Critical writing it seems is an argument against or for something  – I must therefore look at the scant information that has been written about Mège’s project and argue against ideas suggested there, or against something within or about the work. Perhaps about seeing women as others, perhaps about nudity/nakedness in portraiture (which I don’t much like in the main). In relation to flesh, I’ve quoted Germain Greer before but she has quite an issue with it. Suggestions from fellow students very welcome…

I think I can, perhaps should, also compare this project with Tim Andrew’s self-portrait through-others project which is similar but a lot less subtle in my mind and does not seem to be as profound as Mège’s. Is that because she’s a beautiful French women though and he a middle-aged man from Brighton, I wonder?

Micheal also asked me to think about how someone might do something similar with written work rather than photography? What is about photography that makes this sort of project more possible, as I think a written work project would have very different set of restrictive problems… is ownership over writing more or less tricky to negotiate, I wonder? I’m not sure. Lines between plagiarism, influence and collaboration seem important.

Another project that looks at women in a distinctive way which may be relevant:

Belshaw, M. (2016) Response to questions about analysis (Email sent from Micheal Belshaw to Sarah-Jane Field, 21 October 2016)




3 thoughts on “Notes: A4

  1. Really useful notes Sarah-Jane. That’s an interesting video, although I didn’t like the comments underneath it. There was a good point made around 15:14 – “After having looked at flesh for so much time they’re not sexy at all. They’re naked, that’s it”.
    I think Germaine Greer made some good pints – long discussion point I think.


  2. I’m glad you think the notes are useful! I hope the actual essay will live up to their usefulness…. Sexiness is a very culturally imposed factor. Think of scrunched up, deformed Japanese feet! And big plastic boobs that stay in one place


    1. I’m sure it will!
      It might be interesting sometime to have a look at how sexuality is portrayed from a female point of view.

      PS Re Germaine Greer – I meant points of course not pints.


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