Savina Petkova (KCL) - 2019-20 Students

Animal Metaphors and Metamorphoses in Contemporary European Cinema

Animals have populated canvases, pages, and screens since the dawn of all the art forms, metaphors describing a creative but originary relation between (a) and (b), and metamorphosis being one of the earliest storytelling tropes that live through myth and folklore. Both of them are liminal phenomena whose indeterminacy poses a threat to strict distinctions and binaries, the human/animal being the primary example. There is an irreducible trace of humanism that conditions both metaphor and metamorphosis as tropes, which remains crucial for my current project since it is through human bodies (characters and audience), that such destabilisation is made possible. Within the European film industry, there are filmmakers who challenge the auto-ethnographic urges of the festival circuit in such a way. More than an act of revolt against the dominant schemata of center and periphery, these films exemplify the undercurrents of biopolitics in relation with the animal turn and female representation, signaling a dislocation of power structures. Emerging from different but similarly contextualised marginal countries, the metamorphosis becomes a common gesture that makes use of the timelessness and inherently cinematic properties of the literary trope, to claim an ethical stance in relation to the (female) body. Through these case studies, I will address the intersections of feminism and human-animal relations without dispensing with the human perspective. More importantly, humans are treated here as part of a relation, and relationality is the heart of metaphor and metamorphosis, without which both tropes are reduced to gestures of anthropocentrism.

Primary supervisor: Dr. Catherine Wheatley, KCL
Secondary supervisor: Prof. Rosalind Galt, KCL

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