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FR335 Gender and Representation in French Film and Media since 1970

Module Code: FR335
Module Name: Gender and Representation in French Film and Media since 1970
Module Coordinator: Dr Mary Harrod
Term 1
Module Credits: 15

Module Description

In the "post-truth" mass-media age, visual and other cultural representations are perhaps more influential than ever before. At the same time, while France has a particularly pronounced culture of gender differentiation, demonstrated by some French women's response to #MeToo, it is no exaggeration to say in any context that gender is among the most visible and significant structuring axes around which human beings are categorised - even if such categories have gained in complexity in recent years.

This module provides an introduction to studying the gendered aspect of cultural representations arising from French screen media since the 1970s. Examples will be drawn substantially from French and Francophone cinema - from genre films to more provocative* auteur cinema - but will also include popular televisual texts and one session focused on print media. The module's key aim is to analyse cultural discourses around shifts in gender relations that have occurred in the public and private spheres since second-wave feminism of the 1970s, through the "post-" or third-wave feminism that took off in France in the 2000s and into the movement's very recently (post-2015) burgeoning fourth, or intersectional, wave - including specifically in relation to #MeToo.

To this end, the course will draw on critical approaches from both inside and outside France. Thus, a secondary aspect of it will examine the pioneering contributions to feminist thought provided by philosophers and theorists such as Julia Kristeva, Luce Irigaray and Hélène Cixous but also Anglo-American cultural and gender studies approaches from thinkers such as Laura Mulvey or Judith Butler, in their relation to issues of representation.

* Week 3's film is a horror movie including scenes of cannibalism (while themes of sexual violence are of course crucial to discussions of #MeToo in a non-graphic way). Students who prefer not to engage with such ideas might prefer to skip over one or two film sequences or possibly take a different course - even if such material in no way forms the bulk of focus.

I introduced this module upon joining Warwick in 2014-15, building on my various research interests in contemporary trasnational film and media, gender studies, history and theory, as well as drawing on my experience analysing audiovisual texts. These skills have been developed in the belief that culture operates in an inter-disciplinary fashion and therefore a cross-media approach is well placed to take the temperature of particular issues over different time periods (within reasonable limits as to new skills that students can be expected to acquire in one course). The first year it was taught, a salient point highlighted by finalists' end-of-year surveys across French Studies was their newly sharpened recognition of the importance of studying gender. Several students from the course have gone on to pursue further study directly connected to the course, areas such as film and media studies or women's and gender studies at such institutions including Oxford, UCL, SOAS and the Sorbonne. In 2015-16, one student was jointly awarded the Undergraduate Essay prize by the journal Studies in French Cinema for their formative essay from the course. Student comments spontaneously emailed to me have included:

"I wanted to say thank you for the amazing course. It was enriching and very interesting."

(On this course and STATES OF THE NATION): "I've really really loved these two modules and they've been a highlight of my degree, thanks very much for your help over the year!"

"I really really enjoyed this module. I found it stimulating, engaging and informative – and it has actually been quite a significant contributing factor in my decision to pursue further academic study in this field in 2016."

"Things I particularly liked: the broad range of material covered – it was great to cover so many different films as well as written material."

"I really loved the way that we combined theoretical study with the film/text of that particular week. It made for an engaging way of grappling with heavy theory. I have developed a minor obsession with Kristeva(!) and honestly just found that the theoretical study provided an invaluable background throughout my degree this year – both the English and the French side. I hadn’t studied French cinema since A Level, but found the module to cater particularly well for a group without much of a background in film."

Or, a representative comment from feedback questionnaires:

"Mary was always incredibly knowledgeable – able to answer questions and would often email throughout the week with useful information/events etc, which I really liked. This obvious enthusiasm for the content of the module also meant that the seminars were both informative and interesting."

And from our External Examiner: "An intellectually challenging and rewarding unit. An impressive quality of feedback."

Assessment Method:

2250-2500-word essay (70%); 1250-1500-word critical analysis (30%) (analysing a film or television sequence - or journalistic article[s]- by reading it in light of the work of one secondary theoretical piece of writing looked at on the course)

Doctor Mary Harrod

Dr Mary Harrod


WEEK 1 - INTRODUCTION/SCREENING THE HETEROSEXUAL ROMANCE: Trop belle pour toi (Bertrand Blier, 1989)

WEEK 2 - REGIMES OF THE GAZE IN NARRATIVE CINEMA: Cet obscur objet du désir (Luis Buñuel, 1977)

WEEK 3 - LE CINEMA DU CORPS: Grave (Julia Ducournau, 2016)

WEEK 4- REPRESENTING THE ‘CRISIS OF MASCULINITY’: Ma femme est une actrice (Yvan Attal, 2001)

WEEK 5 - QUEERING THE COORDINATES OF GENDER AND IDENTITY: Tomboy (85 mins) +  Petite maman (72 mins.) (Céline Sciamma, 2011 & 2021)

Reading week

WEEK 7 – GENDER IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS MEDIA: FROM THE DSK AFFAIR TO #METOO IN FRANCE: limited selection of journalistic articles (minimal primary prep to allow ample viewing time inc. during reading week for the TV series to be studied in weeks 9 and 10)

WEEK 8 – FRENCHNESS ON NETFLIX 1: ROMANTICISING EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY: Je ne suis pas un homme facile (Eléonore Pourriat, 2018)

WEEK 9 – FRENCHNESS ON NETFLIX 2: NEW ITERATIONS OF FEMINIST TELEVISION: Plan cœur, Season 1 (2018, total run time c. 3.5 hours)

WEEK 10 - FRENCHNESS ON NETLFIX 3: FROM TRANSNATIONAL TO POSTNATIONAL GENDER ROLES Plan cœur, Season 3 (2022, total runtime < 3 hours)