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Heroic masculinities: evolution and hybridisation in the peplum genre

Heroic masculinities: evolution and hybridisation in the peplum genre
Heroic masculinities: evolution and hybridisation in the peplum genre
My area of research is the peplum, a cycle of mythological action films produced in Italy from 1957 to 1965, and its influence on both contemporaneous and subsequent filmic depictions of mythical heroes. I argue that this genre is a significant cinematic form which has been marginalised in the fields of film and cultural studies. My thesis reassesses the peplum in terms of its representations of heroic masculinity and the ways in which these relate to wider debates on masculinity. Critics such as Richard Whitehall (1963), Gianni Rondolino (1979) and Richard Dyer (1996, 1997) have noted that the cycle began with Le fatiche di Ercole (Hercules, Pietro Francisci, 1958), which established the peplum ground rules. Taking this film as my starting point, I trace the evolution of the genre through a series of case studies, including Romolo e Remo (Duel of the Titans, Sergio Corbucci, 1961), which offers contrasting forms of heroic masculinity, and counter representations of Herculean masculinity in Jason and the Argonauts (Don Chaffey, 1963), an American production made partly in response to the success of the peplum, and Ercole alla conquista di Atlantide (Hercules Conquers Atlantis, Vittorio Cottafavi, 1961). I also discuss later reconfigurations of the peplum hero in the American-financed Conan the Barbarian (John Milius, 1982) and 300 (Zack Snyder, 2007), which draw on the iconography and aesthetics of the peplum to markedly different effect. Previous peplum scholarship has characterised the genre as endorsing the value of white male physical strength in the context of a reactionary patriarchal status quo. I argue that the depiction of masculinity in these films is more varied, problematic and contradictory than this over-generalised reading would suggest. It is my contention that the peplum’s diverse representations of masculinity offer a notable contribution to ongoing debates on maleness as centred on and expressed by the body—within film studies, academia and the wider culture—that has been largely unexplored and unappreciated. My re-evaluation of the peplum also underlines the cultural value of Italian and indeed European genre cinema, fields still overshadowed in film studies by the dominant Hollywood models.
O'Brien, Daniel
90959751-0e8d-40b4-8de9-483a7cedfb1a
O'Brien, Daniel
90959751-0e8d-40b4-8de9-483a7cedfb1a
Bergfelder, Tim
fb4e3b67-06fd-4b9f-9a94-bc73a1c7c16d
Williams, Michael
fdd5b778-38f1-4529-b99c-9d41ab749576

(2012) Heroic masculinities: evolution and hybridisation in the peplum genre. University of Southampton, Faculty of Humanities, Doctoral Thesis, 307pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

My area of research is the peplum, a cycle of mythological action films produced in Italy from 1957 to 1965, and its influence on both contemporaneous and subsequent filmic depictions of mythical heroes. I argue that this genre is a significant cinematic form which has been marginalised in the fields of film and cultural studies. My thesis reassesses the peplum in terms of its representations of heroic masculinity and the ways in which these relate to wider debates on masculinity. Critics such as Richard Whitehall (1963), Gianni Rondolino (1979) and Richard Dyer (1996, 1997) have noted that the cycle began with Le fatiche di Ercole (Hercules, Pietro Francisci, 1958), which established the peplum ground rules. Taking this film as my starting point, I trace the evolution of the genre through a series of case studies, including Romolo e Remo (Duel of the Titans, Sergio Corbucci, 1961), which offers contrasting forms of heroic masculinity, and counter representations of Herculean masculinity in Jason and the Argonauts (Don Chaffey, 1963), an American production made partly in response to the success of the peplum, and Ercole alla conquista di Atlantide (Hercules Conquers Atlantis, Vittorio Cottafavi, 1961). I also discuss later reconfigurations of the peplum hero in the American-financed Conan the Barbarian (John Milius, 1982) and 300 (Zack Snyder, 2007), which draw on the iconography and aesthetics of the peplum to markedly different effect. Previous peplum scholarship has characterised the genre as endorsing the value of white male physical strength in the context of a reactionary patriarchal status quo. I argue that the depiction of masculinity in these films is more varied, problematic and contradictory than this over-generalised reading would suggest. It is my contention that the peplum’s diverse representations of masculinity offer a notable contribution to ongoing debates on maleness as centred on and expressed by the body—within film studies, academia and the wider culture—that has been largely unexplored and unappreciated. My re-evaluation of the peplum also underlines the cultural value of Italian and indeed European genre cinema, fields still overshadowed in film studies by the dominant Hollywood models.

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More information

Published date: 1 May 2012
Organisations: University of Southampton, Film

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 367195
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/367195
PURE UUID: dbb1bdc2-a659-4e0b-b3f2-419d7994ba08
ORCID for Tim Bergfelder: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-6585-6123

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 23 Oct 2014 10:36
Last modified: 06 Aug 2019 00:36

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Contributors

Author: Daniel O'Brien
Thesis advisor: Tim Bergfelder ORCID iD
Thesis advisor: Michael Williams

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