A Historical Sensibility: Television, Postfeminism and the Second World War

Mahoney, Cathy (2017) A Historical Sensibility: Television, Postfeminism and the Second World War. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

[img] Text (Doctoral thesis)
Cathy Mahoney PhD thesis.docx - Submitted Version

Download (374kB)


Postfeminism is not an ideological position or coherent theoretical framework that can be applied externally to the analysis of texts. Indeed popular postfeminism – as distinguished in this thesis from academic postfeminism – is knowable only through its workings in culture, specifically in the representation of gender in “postfeminist” media texts. Therefore, this thesis does not adopt a postfeminist position or approach to analyse the source texts, but rather seeks to identify and deconstruct a postfeminist sensibility within them.

This sensibility became apparent in 1990s depictions of characters such as Bridget Jones (Renée Zellweger) and Ally McBeal (Calista Flockhart); however, it prevails in texts created in the current moment and inflects their representation of women. This thesis seeks to identify the themes and characteristics of this sensibility at the site of their creation – media texts representing women – expose the reasons why they are problematic, and show that the same traits exist in the texts considered here. In so doing it seeks to demonstrate that postfeminist ideals are still informing representations of women in the media.

Furthermore, it seeks to demonstrate that this postfeminist sensibility, despite being a product of 1990s postfeminism and the current post/post-post-feminist moment, inflects representations of women from different time-periods, specifically from the Second World War and immediate post-war period. Because of the media’s (and specifically television’s) central role in the formation of cultural memory, this creates a lens through which women’s history and women’s historical identities are viewed in the present day. This postfeminist lens, or sensibility (Gill 2007), is thereby dehistoricised as an aspect of essential femininity. In this way the politics of the present are cast onto the past. Through this process, the events of the past are drained of any independent meaning and repurposed/redeployed to meet the needs of the present. The centrality and ubiquity of such postfeminist visions of the past is such that postfeminist discourse has become a central component of what this thesis terms, the Historical Sensibility which informs and structures historical drama on television.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: feminism, gender, media, history, memory
Subjects: L300 Sociology
P300 Media studies
V300 History by topic
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Social Sciences
Depositing User: Paul Burns
Date Deposited: 18 Jul 2018 16:03
Last Modified: 26 Oct 2019 08:03
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/35041

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics