Notes on Mulvey, L – Pandora’s Box

Throughout participating in the ‘Goddess’ and Monsters’ study group i have grown an interest for Cinema and fetishism and would like to write my dissertation based on these subjects. I’m hoping that by reading books upon these and similar subjects with help point me in the direction of exactly what question i would like to answer for my dissertation.

Upon reading ‘Fetishism and Curiosity: Cinema and the Mind’s Eye’ By Laura Mulvey i have been able to make the connections from the myth of Pandora’s box to themes that we have previously learnt about in the study group such as beauty, fetishism, interior/exterior, unraveling bodies and more.

In the Greek mythology, Pandora was the first woman on earth that was created by the God’s. She was given gifts such as beauty and charm and sent to earth to ‘seduce and bring harm to man’. Pandora was then given a container (a jar or box) that secretly contained all the evils of the world. Although she was told never to open the box, her curiosity over came her and so evil escaped and misery was bought to man.

“A mask-like surface enhances the concept of feminine beauty as an ‘outside’, as an artifice and masquerade, which conceals danger and deception. And lingering alongside is the structure of fetish, which, with its investment in eye catching surfaces, distracts the gaze from the hidden wound on the females, or rather the mother’s, body.”

Laura discusses the purpose of Pandora’s creation. She suggests that Pandora is a manufactured object and that her creation is based on a ‘interior/exterior’ basis of ‘surface/secret’, comparing her to a ‘Trojan Horse’ and evoking the idea that Pandora causes mystery and is a trap for man. She suggests that her beautiful, feminine exterior acts as a distraction to the male gaze to hide the fact that Pandora, is in fact, a woman. This links to Freud’s theory of fetishism and masks Pandora as a typical character of ‘femme fatale’. ‘Inside/outside’ is then explored more in terms of femininity. Laura suggests that an ‘inside’ space may link with maternal femininity such as a womb, but, could also be related with the secrecy of an inside space such as a box/a room.

Pandora’s box – originally a jar – as an object. Both are a container. They are made up of an inside and an outside. The outside, designed to look beautiful, creates curiosity as it contains something unknown. This draws excitement, but also fear.

‘The seductive mask and the box: each conceal a secret that is dangerous to man’ 

In comparison to Pandora. Both are built around an interior and an exterior. Laura suggests that the shape of the box and its associations with secrecy ‘allows a metamorphic relationship to come into existence between the box and the female genitals‘.  She backs this up by inputting a piece of text by Lumina Jordanova in Sexual Visions which associates secrecy with the female body. She also links this to a conversation between Freud and Dora in ‘Fragment of an analysis’ where dora talks about her dream of a jewel case and Freud suggests this of her female genitals, also suggestive of an interior/exterior basis.

Die Büchse der Pandora als Stilleben


Laura analyses this painting by Paul Klee. The vase, suggestive of the female genitals, containing flowers and evil vapours. She uses this as an example to imply that throughout history female sexualisation has been seen as something to be disgusted and repelled by. This links back to the monstrous body that has been discussed within our study group. We have talked about the unravelling of the body, and the idea that when insides of the body become outside it is seen as something that repulses and disgusts. Laura concludes that ‘masculine desire is caught in an oscillation between erotic obsession with the female body and fear of castration..” 


Constellation Reflection

At the start my Goddess and Monster’s study group, Cath introduced us to a new way of analysing visual material. We have used this though out the study group sessions and I will continue to use this for my formative assessment, dissertation and beyond university where needed. The method involves creating a table that is made up of three columns under the headings of ‘Description’, ‘Analysis’ and ‘Theory’. First, we must study the visual material and note any descriptive part of what the image is made up of. I found that this was the easiest part. Second, we are to write about what this descriptive part could suggest or represent in our own opinion. The more I practiced analysing imagery and taking part in the study group, the more I was able to pick up on what I had already learnt and the more ideas I had. The final part is to find the evidence to support the suggestions that I have made, to look back through readings, quotes and notes and pick out what links to the analysis and what is relevant. This seems to be one of the hardest tasks for me as I struggle to read and understand most of the texts which is something that hugely frustrates me and puts me off. I have always struggled to read and take in what it is that I’m reading, especially within the classroom environment. To overcome this, I have studied each reading in advance for each session, although, I still don’t feel as though this has been enough for me.

This is the second time that I have participated within this study group and so I have been able to recognise and overcome my difficulties within analysis. I had thought about joining a lingerie course as it was something that I was more interested in, but later decided to join back into my second year of Textiles and aimed to link my studies more within my areas of interest. As I had previously participated in the Goddesses and Monsters study group, I knew it consisted of subjects of my interest and had already submitted a dissertation proposal. However, I really struggled with getting to grips with the reading and understanding. As it seems to take a while for me read and understand things compared to a majority of other students, having the advantage of participating in it last year has helped a lot. Although still with some difficulty, I’ve had a lot better of an understanding of what was being discussed in this study group and I feel a lot more focused and it has boosted my confidence.

There are so many concepts and theories that have interested me throughout this study group. As a textile designer, I can relate and am passionate about the materials that have been mentioned through out. I have enjoyed learning about the glamourous characteristics of the soft, shiny, luxurious and feminine fabrics as well as the fetishism characteristics of leather and lace fabrics. Before the study group, I visited the V&A ‘Undressed’ exhibition on the history of underwear. I have been able to think back about the pieces such as corsets and shape shifters that were displayed in relation to themes of fashion, glamour, embodiment, the ideal woman, etc. I have also been able to make direct links from my constellation studies to my subject. I am currently hypothetically designing a collection of fabrics for Agent Provocateur. When researching the targeted customer, I used their ‘Naughty or Nice’ Christmas campaign as an example of their targeted customer. This is a film that flicks between an innocent Juno Temple who fools around in a bedroom that is filled with pink interior, features a giant, soft teddy bear and nude/pink frilly lingerie, in contrast to more of a sultry scene of which Juno is wearing more seductive lingerie set and the bedroom is made up of more dark, gothic interior.  After participating in this study group, I am constantly analysing and asking questions. Why is the interior pink? What does this suggest? Why is lace used for lingerie? Upon exploring these questions, I immediately have an understanding of something that has led from the constellation group.

Something that has also come of my interest during this time is analysing horror film. I have realised that I have started to subconsciously analyse films while at home, or at the cinema and of this comes a better understanding of the film and so I enjoy them even more.  Some of the designer’s/design companies I have looked at both in constellation and in subject have been inspired by film.

When designing and creating in the future, I will carefully select each fabric and explore the reasoning behind it even more than I have done before. When analysing products, adverts, and any visual material I will be subconsciously using the description, analysis and theory method because when i have a better understanding, I am much more passionate about the subject/object.

Taking part in the study group that each is 5 hours at a time is also something that I feel has benefitted me. The times goes quickly and I feel that I really get into the flow of things. It’s a shame that I have to go to work for the night straight afterwards as I’m always motivated and within the creative flow at that time. Cath spent the time constantly analysing work within our disciplines such as fashion, paintings, sculpture, movies and more. It was great to hear someone speak about peoples work as if it were her own essay. We then spent time within small groups, doing the exact same thing but about other art works and then had full group discussions. I don’t feel as though I’m great at putting things into words and so both listening to Cath and openly discussing the subjects helped me do it for myself.

I enjoy being able to relate all of my study groups and interests together, its really making me feel a lot more passionate about this course. After noticing that all of my studies are relating back to my interest of lingerie and film, I think this is subjects that I would like to include within my dissertation. My reading, understanding and writing is improving and I am looking forward to improving further, researching within my interests and writing a dissertation on them.