Lifelong Learning Institute: Spring 2005


Alfred Hitchcock, the director known as the "Master of Suspense," exerted tremendous control over the films he made, and, for decades, critics and feminists have argued about the ways his movies portray women.

In this course, we'll look at the important Hitchcock films, starting with his work in England in the silent era, when his fascination with the "cool blonde" heroine began, and trace the development of women in his films through the late Hollywood masterpieces. We'll cover the "mousy" women of REBECCA and SUSPICION, as well as the "bad girls" of NOTORIOUS, NORTH BY NORTHWEST, and MARNIE. We'll witness the authority some of his women wield, as they do in VERTIGO, causing a man to fall obsessively in love and reaching out from beyond the grave to affect the living. And what about Janet Leigh in the shower in PSYCHO and Tippi Hedren in that attic room in THE BIRDS?

Does Hitchcock portray these women sympathetically? Does he acknowledge their place --- and the place of men, including him --- in the patriarchal system that governs our social interaction? What do Hitchcock's women tell us about the culture in which the films were made? In our attempt to answer these questions, we'll take a hard look at the films themselves and at the cinematic methods Hitchcock uses both to position our responses and to dramatize issues of gender and sexuality that still resonate in our world today.

Access course materials by linking to the appropriate handouts: