Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Agent of change: A multiplicity of female tricksters in two decades (1990s and early 2000s to 2010) of postmodern American movies
by Kiefer-Newman, Katherine, Ph.D., Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2011, 246; 3519784
Abstract (Summary)

The trickster-of-old is a figure that thrives on chaos, is appetite-driven, thwarts authority, is sexually raucous, and busts down the boundaries. The contrariness of this once-predominantly male figure, and its need to remake every society it emerges from, has not changed. In a postmodern context, though, he becomes increasingly she. Unique to our contemporary time (postmillennial and since the advent of the intemet and the digital age), this multivalent and multivocal collective of culturally derived postmodern female trickster characters is easily recognized. The figure, resilient and defiantly relevant, has evolved that old paradigmatic archetype into a myriad of characters.

My study examines the postmodern female trickster as that figure (in various character forms), and how she is expressed in both mainstream and lesser-known films of the late 1990s through 2010. Interestingly, the postmodern female trickster meme emerges as a subversive figure or collective of figures, supplanting not just the traditional male trickster but also the traditional (mostly white and male) culture-hero in contemporary films. Contemporary versions of the figure acknowledge and even openly embrace the trickster's culture-hero role in many of the stories.

A diverse blend of scholars and interdisciplinary approaches are utilized to better take in the vastness of this complicated and complex figure. This study applies postmodernism, feminist theory, liminality, and previous studies of the trickster as a historical and religious figure to the contemporary movies-as-myths, to demonstrate how this trickster is both an extension and an evolution of the archetypal trickster figure.

A multiplicity of these postmodern female tricksters are identified and referred to as expressions. For ease of discussion these expressions are called Trickster-As-Cunning-Damsel (a twist on the old damsel in distress trope), Trickster-In-The-Middle (the figure that merges two binaries), and Female-Trickster-In-A-Man's-World (the emergent postmodern female culture-hero-trickster). Each of my three central chapters examines this emergent, transitory, and changeable figure in a cultural context.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Grillo, Laura
Commitee:
School: Pacifica Graduate Institute
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 73/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Folklore, Womens studies, Film studies
Keywords: 1990s, 2000s, Female cultural voice, Gambler, Hedonic and agonic modes, Meme, Movies, Popular culture, Tricksters, Tricky women
Publication Number: 3519784
ISBN: 978-1-267-50684-9
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