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The University of Southampton
FilmPart of Humanities

‘Are you not entertained?: Mapping the gladiatorial impulse in visual culture’ Seminar

Centre for International Film Research
16:00 - 18:00
21 November 2017
Lecture Theatre B Avenue Campus Faculty of Humanities University of Southampton SO17 1BF

For more information regarding this seminar, please email Dr Shelley Cobb at .

Event details

Part of the Film Research Seminar Series 2017-18. All welcome.


Anglo-American culture is marked by a gladiatorial impulse:  a deep fascination with watching men fight each other. The gladiator is an archetypal character and his brand of eroticised violence has become cultural shorthand for a nostalgic version of heroic manhood. Frequently the gladiator or celebrity fighter (from the amphitheatres of Rome to the octagon of the Ultimate Fighting Championships) is used as a way to insist that a desire to fight, and to watch men fighting, is simply part of human nature. Furthermore, the gladiator scenario is used as evidence of an in-built and unchanging violent drive inside all men.

This talk will reject sweeping assumptions about the unchanging nature of male violence by focusing on the historical specificities of the gladiator scenario – using a broad base of examples including Spartacus (Kubrick 1960), Maciste, gladiatore di Sparta (Caiano 1964), the Mortal Kombat franchise, Fight Club (Fincher 1999), Gladiator (Scott 2000), Gamer (Neveldine & Taylor 2009) and, most recently, the reality competition programme Bromans (ITV2 2017--).  Using such texts as illustrative, I will present an overview of the gladiator as archetype, scenario, and cultural impulse. This mapping reveals and explores the complex ways the gladiator is nostalgically re-built and re-animated to fight (and suffer) the socio-political demons of his day.

Speaker information

Lindsay Steenberg, Oxford Brookes University. Dr Steenburg is a Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at Oxford Brookes University where she co-ordinates their graduate programme in Popular Cinema. Her research focuses on violence and gender in postmodern and postfeminist media culture. She has published numerous articles and chapters on the crime and action genres. She is the author of Forensic Science in Contemporary American Popular Culture: Gender, Crime, and Science and is currently working on a monograph entitled, The First Rule of Fight Club: Tracing the Gladiatorial Impulse in Visual Culture for which she has been awarded a Research Excellence Fellowship from Oxford Brookes University.

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