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Sophie Swoffer

Drama and Theatre Studies, De Montfort University

Thesis title:

In Her Prime, or Past It?: Reconsidering the Gaze and Feminine Monstrosity in Feminist PerformanceArt and Film Studies.

This practice-based PhD will use an interdisciplinary approach to investigate the agency-filled potential of femininity and masquerade. It will take as a starting point Laura Mulvey’s 1975 essay ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’, which transformed the way that we viewed the female image on screen and the position of the masculinised spectator. However, many criticisms have since emerged, highlighting how Mulvey fails to consider the female spectator, prioritises the heterosexual gaze, and ignores other potentials of looking (Doane 1982; Kaplan 1982; Mayne 1991).

My thesis will examine the work of contemporary female artists through a re-envisaging of the male gaze, including writings on the queer gaze (Wray 2012)particularly the newest photo series by Cindy Sherman, Louis Weaver’s performances exploring age and sexuality, and the recently rediscovered work of 1970s sex positive feminist artist, Penny Slinger. Significantly developing upon this practice, I will be making my own performative intermedial investigations of femininity throughout this PhD, displaying innovative hyper femme personas that challenge the often reductive positioning of the starlet and the ageing actress.

Research Area

  • Drama and Theatre Studies



  • Me, Myself and I: Exploring The Live Presence and Embodiment of The Femme in Mediatized Performance, Sapienza University; Italy, Dance and Performance Post-Graduate Conference, 7-8th April 2016.

  • Look into her eyes and Watch yourself turn to stone, De Montfort University, Borderlineds IV- Resisting, Persisting, Performing, 22 June 2016.


  • Have Your Cake and I'll Eat it For You, De Montfort University, Tonite Lets all Make Love in Leicester, Peter Whitehead and the Swinging Sixties, 3 March 2017.

  • 'It would have been quicker to just hire a stripper' The Body of The Female Artist and Its Challenge to The Misogynistic Gaze, Chelsea College of Arts, University of Arts London, Revisiting The Gaze: Feminism, Fashion and The Female Body Conference, 28th-29th of June 2017.


  • ‘Learning From and Moving Beyond Hollywood: Reconsidering the Underground Career of Bettie Page Through a Live Art Perspective’,Women in Hollywood symposium, hosted by De Montfort University, 28th May 2018.

  • It’s Sophie! De Montfort University, Leicester, Borderlines VI: Performing Across the Frontiers of Fear, the sixth annual interdisciplinary conference on performance hosted by De Montfort University's the Drama Research Group and the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Dance (CIRID), 21st June 2018.


  • Posing, pouting and pretence: Re-envisaging Mulvey's theory of the male gaze and the hyper-feminine body, Leeds University, The Lived Female Body in Performance conference, hosted by the School of Performance and Cultural Industries, on the 3rd of April 2019.

  • It's Sophie! - film screening - at Per/Forming Futures: Investigating Artistic Doctorates in Dance and Performance, hosted at Middlesex University, London, 11th-13th of April.

  • From Parody to Monstrosity: Re-envisaging the overlooked starlet figure through a Feminist Practice-Based Perspective, De Montfort University, Leicester, CATHIconference hosted by the Cinema and Television History Institute, 14th June 2019.

  • Posing, Parody and Penetrative Potential: Revising Mulvey's theory of the male gaze through a hyper-feminine performance perspective, University of Calgary, Canada, Performance Studies International conference, on the 4th-7th of July 2019.


Public Engagement & Impact

Upcoming publication: I am guest editing a special issue in the International Journal of Creative Media Research, on the conference that I organised Cracking the Established Order: Practice-based research in Academia. This will be published in May.