Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Jackie Byars

Second Advisor

John W. Spaulding


This dissertation conducts feminist narrative textual analysis of films by three independent women film-makers-of- color: Julie Dash, Mona Smith and Trinh T. Minh-ha. The research utilizes traditional cinematic narratological methods combined with a feminist perspective. Narratology is the structural/textual study of narrative organization, style and content. Feminism is a theoretical body of inquiry which lends implications of gender difference, power relationships, cinematic stereotypes, and cultural significance to textual analysis. Feminist inquiry contributes a social, cultural, ideological and historical perspective to the taxomony of a structuralist narrative methodology. By combining this contextual perspective with a topological textual method, I propose consideration of a feminist narratology which explains how stories are structured, narrated and understood from divergent ideological and cultural positions, especially those positions which relate to gender, race and ethnic differences. The study focuses on the narrative concepts of temporality (time), focalization (narrative perspective) and voice (narration) in selected films by each film maker in order to locate similarities and differences in narrative construction across different film texts and styles, which were produced at different times and across the contextual differences of ethnicity and historical conditions. This cross-methodological exploration elucidates that both narratology and feminism reguire reevaluation, evolution and mobility in the open-ended development of cinematic theory. Feminist inquiry of narrative structure and meaning explores how women film makers interrogate dominant cinematic forms. These women film makers remember and examine their historical iconography and offer alternative ways to conceptualize subjectivity. Aesthetically, a feminist narrative model includes the use of communal, community-based voices in narrative recounting, cyclical and episodic temporal structures, female central characters, multiple focalizers, a consciousness of image construction and a sense of historical recovery. Examining these narratological elements in film will allow us to understand film as a feminist medium that can (re)invent non—hegemonic images for the future which share in common ideological, structural, thematic and communicative goals.