Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




In her 1975 article, "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema," Laura Mulvey writes, "Unchallenged, mainstream film coded the erotic into the language of the dominant patriarchal order" (60). She argues that in film, this patriarchal language produces images of women who are displayed for the erotic enjoyment of male spectators, playing out male subconscious erotic fantasies on screen. Using Mulvey's articles as a theoretical framework, I look for evidence of the active female gaze in the cinematic adaptations of 1he Scarlet Letter written by Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1850, The Last of the Mohicans written by James Fenimore Cooper in 1826 and Little Women written by Louisa May Alcott in 1868. For each chapter of my thesis, I examine a pair of adaptations beginning with the 1934 and 1995 versions of the Scarlet Letter, followed by the 1936 and 1992 versions of The Last of the Mohicans, and concluding with the 1933 and 1994 versions of Little Women. Each of the earlier films from the 1930s is encoded in this patriarchal structure to some degree. Mulvey's essay "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" was published in 1975. While her theories on patriarchal encryption can be seen in the films from the 1930s, advances in areas such as equal rights, political correctness, and affirmative action have influenced the filmmakers of the later 1990s films. Due to the changes in the political atmosphere, each of the three films from the 1990s demonstrate a greater awareness of the female audience and struggle to allow women to have a strong gaze.