2022 Abstracts Stage 2

A Discussion of the Psychic Mechanisms Within Cinematic Catharsis

Lydia Schofield, 2022, Stage 2

The emotional release that is often felt by spectators when observing cinema is an interesting focus in the context for Freud’s catharsis, as early cinema was still developing as an art form when he wrote his various works. He extensively discussed the psychic mechanisms at play during dreams, fantasy and even when telling jokes yet applying his theories of repression and the unconscious to cinema specifically has produced insight into the unique experience of being a spectator to cinema.

This dissertation explores the role of catharsis in cinema, focusing on the 2016 television series ‘Fleabag’ and analysing the psychic mechanisms at play during such catharsis. My object therefore is Cinema and Fleabag and the territory is catharsis.
Cinema is referenced through a variety of secondary sources and Fleabag is referenced through Phoebe Waller- Bridge’s original scripts- The Scriptures (2020).
Aristotelian Catharsis is reference through his Poetics (1995) which influenced Freudian catharsis as demonstrated in Breuer and Freud’s Studies in Hysteria (2004) which describe a therapeutic technique which harnesses the process of catharsis to treat neurotic patients. Finally, I discuss the feminine experience of catharsis with reference to the popular culture term dissociative feminism, relating it to Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex (2011).

By the above primary thinkers, my project demonstrates that the process of cinematic catharsis is purgative because it facilitates a processing of unconscious conflict, even if we are unaware of it.

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