Skip to main content Skip to navigation

FR335 Module Outline



After briefly introducing some of the particularities of gender relations and their representation in a French socio-historical and especially media context in the 1970s, this module will spend weeks 1-5 considering theoretical conceptualisations of gender and its representation, often drawing heavily on French and Continental thought, in conjunction with individual film texts. Traditions whose influence will be examined include psychoanalysis, surrealism, Levinasian 'ethical' philosophy and the feminist writings of Luce Irigaray, Hélène Cixous and Julia Kristeva. Films include both auteur and more popular fare and follow a thematic rather than a strictly chronological pattern, although we will trace historical developments in the dominance of different schools of thought. In weeks 7-10 we will put these ideas more fully into dialogue with post-1980s Anglo-American cultural studies contributions to scholarly ideas about representing gender, through considering a combination of popular films and literature, television programmes and information media, as we move to examining very recent developments in French media’s negotiation of ‘legitimate’ gender norms.


We will combine analysis of theoretical approaches with textual analysis of various kinds. As most students will have some experience of analysing films, the principal challenge in the first half of the course will be grappling with theoretical writings and thinking about how these can be applied to films. In the second half of the course we will consider more fully links between theoretical and more socio-historical approaches to the study of media, including in relation to different textual forms. This section of the course will provide an introduction to paradigms involved in studying issues of representation through different media, such as qualitative and quantitative analysis or visual and discourse analysis.


With the exception of weeks 8 and 10, each week will involve viewing a film, as well as set readings. You need to set aside substantial time to do the assigned readings, which will feature as centrally in seminars as will the primary texts. The vast majority of readings are readily available online, usually through the course scans webpage or else through journals available online via the library; where possible these should be brought to class to facilitate discussion.

You should also read Fred Vargas' novel Sous les vents de Neptune in advance in preparation for week 8.

Students who are not familiar with audiovisual analysis may find the following sources useful:

  • David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson, Film Art: An Introduction (6th edition, New York, Knopf, 1998).
  • Timothy Corrigan and Patricia White, The Film Experience (Boston, Bedford, 2004 edition). See especially a section in the latter on 'Writing a Film Essay' (pp. 474-80 and following examples).
  • Alan Williams, Republic of Images: A History of French Cinema (Harvard, University of Harvard Press, 1992).



Viewing: Les Valseuses (Bertrand Blier, France 1974) (available through the library and TRC)

• Extract from Christine Bard, ‘Les antiféministes de la deuxième vague.’ In C. Bard (ed.), Un siècle d’antiféminisme, pp.301-12. Paris: Fayard, 1999. Available through course scans webpage
(N.B. check page numbers as the extract online is longer but we will look at the second half, from ‘Les Années backlash’, later in the course.)
• Extract from Stuart Hall, ‘The Spectacle of the Other.’ In S. Hall, Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices, pp.215-28. London: Sage; Open University, 1997. Available through course scans webpage as above. (Again, you do not need to read the entire digitised chapter, just down to ‘Racializing the “Other”’.)

Further viewing: Les Ripoux (Claude Zidi 1984), Tenue de soirée (Blier 1986), Taxi (Gérard Pirès 1998), Intouchables (Olivier Nakache & Eric Toledano 2013)

Further reading:

• Noël Burch and Geneviève Sellier, 'The "Funny War" of the Sexes in French Cinema.' In A. Williams (ed.) Film and Nationalism, pp.152-55. New Brunswick, New Jersey and London: Rutgers, 2002.

• Ginette Vincendeau, ‘New Wave, new stars.’ In Stars and Stardom in French Cinema, pp. 110-135. London and New York: Continuum, 2000.
• Sue Harris, ‘Bending Gender,’ in S. Harris, Bertrand Blier, pp.106-130. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2001. Available through course scans webpage.
• Sue Harris, ‘Sex, comedy and sexy comedy at the French box office in the 1970s: Rethinking Emmanuelle and Les Valseuses,’ Contemporary French Civilization 35.1 (Winter/Spring 2011): 1-18. Available through course scans webpage.

On Tenue de soirée:
• P. Powrie, French Cinema in the 1980s: Nostalgia and the Crisis of Masculinity (Introduction - also relevant to week 7, and sections on Blier), Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Viewing: Cet obscur objet du désir (Luis Buñuel, France/Spain 1977)
• Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” (originally published in Screen, 1975). In B. Nichols (ed.), Movies and Methods. Volume II, pp. 303-315. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985. Available through library.
OR originally published in Screen 16:3 (Autumn 1975): 6-18. Accessible online via institutional login at
• Laura Mulvey, ‘Introduction.’ In 2nd Edition of Visual and Other Pleasures, ix-xxv. London: Palgrave, 2009. Available through course scans webpage.
• Linda Williams, Figures of Desire: A Theory and Analysis of Surrealist Film, pp. 185-210. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981. Collect from box outside my office.

Further viewing: Belle de jour (Buñuel, France/Italy 1967); Tristana (Buñuel, Spain/Italy/France 1970).

Further reading:

• Geneviève Sellier, La Nouvelle Vague: un cinéma au masculin singulier. Paris: Broché, 2005.

• Geneviève Sellier, ‘French New Wave Cinema and the Legacy of Male Libertinage.’ Cinema Journal 49, no. 4 (Summer 2010). Special Issue ‘In Focus: The French New Wave at Fifty: Pushing the Boundaries’: 152-158.

• Steve Neale, ‘Masculinity as Spectacle.’ In Screening the Male: Exploring Masculinities in the Hollywood Cinema, edited by Steven Cohan and Ina Rae Hark, pp. 9-22. London and New York: Routledge, 1993. (This is a response to Laura Mulvey’s ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,’ to be studied in Week 2.) Available through course scans webpage.

• The library holds a wide range of literature on Buñuel.

Viewing: L’Enfant (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Belgium/France 2005)
Reading :
• Tina Chanter, Irigaray’s Rewriting of the Philosophers, pp.198-223. New York and London: Routledge, 1995. Available through course scans webpage.
• Sarah Cooper, ‘Mortal Ethics: Reading Levinas with the Dardenne brothers,’ Film-Philosophy 11:2 (August 2007). Online

Further viewing: La Promesse (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne 1995), Rosetta (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne 1999), Le Fils (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne 2002), Le Gamin au vélo (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne 2011)

Further reading:

• Luce Irigaray, ‘La Fécondité de la caresse.’ In Éthique de la différence sexuelle, pp.173-99. Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1984. Available through course scans webpage.
• Richard Rushton, ‘Empathic projection in the films of the Dardenne brothers,’ Screen (Autumn 2014) 55 (3): 303-316.
• Joseph Mai, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardennes. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2010.
• Joseph Mai, ‘Corps-Caméra: The Evocation of Touch in the Dardennes’ La Promesse,’ L’Esprit Créateur, 47:3 (Fall 2007). Available online through Project Muse
• Eun-Jee Park, ‘The politics of friendship and paternity: the Dardenne brothers’ Rosetta,’ Studies in French Cinema 12:2 (2012): 122-128.

Viewing: Gazon maudit (Josiane Balasko, France 1995)
• Hélène Cixous, ‘Le Rire de la Méduse et autres ironies,’ in Le Rire de la Méduse, pp. 36-68. Paris: Galilée, 2010. First published in 1975. Available through course scans webpage.
• Kathleen Rowe, The Unruly Woman, pp. 1-12 (available through course scans webpage) & 25-36 (collect from box outside my office). Austin: University of Texas Press, 1995.
• Kate Ince, ‘Queering the family: fantasy and the performance of sexuality and gay relations in French cinema 1995-2000.’ Studies in French Cinema 2, no.2 (2002): 90-97.

Further viewing: Romuald et Juliette (Coline Serreau 1989); Palais royal! (Valérie Lemercier 1993); 2 Days in Paris (Julie Delpy 2007); 2 Days in New York (Julie Delpy 2012); La Vie au ranch (Sophie Letourneur 2009); 8 Femmes (François Ozon 2002); Chouchou (Merzak Allouache 2003).

Further reading:
• Susan Hayward, ‘“Hardly Grazing”, Josiane Balasko’s Gazon maudit (1995): The mise-en-textes and mise-en-scène of Sexuality/ies.’ In Heathcote, Hughes and Williams (eds.), Gay Signatures: Gay and Lesbian Theory, Fiction and Film in France, 1945-1995, pp. 131-49. Oxford: Berg, 1998.
• Brigitte Rollet, ‘Unruly Woman? Josiane Balasko, French Comedy, and Gazon maudit.’ In P. Powrie (ed.), French Cinema in the 1990s: Continuity and Difference, pp. 127-36. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.
• Johnston, C. 2002. ‘Representations of homosexuality in 1990s mainstream French cinema.’ Studies in French Cinema 2, no. 1: 23-31.
• Swamy, V. 2006. ‘Gallic dreams? The family, PaCS and kinship relations in
millennial France.’ Studies in French Cinema 6, no.1: 53-65.

• Darren Waldron, 'Fluidity of Gender and Sexuality in Gazon maudit.' In: Lucy Mazdon, editor(s). France on Film. London: Wallflower Press; 2001. p. 65-80.
• Lucille Cairns, ‘Gazon maudit: French national and sexual identities’ French Cultural Studies, 9 (1998), pp. 225-37.

Viewing: A ma soeur! (Catherine Breillat 2001)
• Julia Kristeva, Pouvoirs de l’horreur: essai sur l’abjection, pp.9-25. Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1980. Available through course scans webpage (N.B. check pagination – you do not need to read the entire section digitised, just down to ‘Dostoïevski’).
• Lisa Downing, ‘French Cinema’s New “Sexual Revolution”: Postmodern Porn and Troubled Genre,’ French Cultural Studies 15:3 (2004).
• Douglas Keesey, ‘Sisters as one soul in two bodies,’ in Catherine Breillat. Manchester University Press, 2009. Available through course scans webpage.

Further viewing: Romance (Catherine Breillat 1999); Baise-moi (Virginie Despentes and Coralie Trinh-Thi 2000), Irréversible (Gaspar Noé 2002), Dans ma peau (Marina de Van 2002)

Further reading:
• J. Quandt, ‘Flesh & Blood, Sex and Violence in Recent French Cinema,’ Artforum International, February 2004. Available through course scans webpage.
• L. Williams, ‘Cinema and the Sex Act,’ Cineaste 27:1 (Dec 2001): 20-5.
• Trevor H. Maddock and Ivan Krisjansen, ‘Surrealist poetics and the cinema of evil: the significance of the expression of sovereignty in Catherine Breillat’s A ma soeur (2001)’, Studies in French Cinema, 3:3 (2003)
• K. Dooley, ‘”When you have your back to the wall, everything becomes easy”: performance and direction in the films of Catherine Breillat,’ Studies in French Cinema 14:2: 108-118.
• J. Phillips, ‘Catherine Breillat’s Romance: Hard Core and the Female Gaze,’ Studies in French Cinema 1:3 (2003)
• E. Wilson, ‘Deforming Femininity: Catherine Breillat’s Romance.’ In L. Mazdon (ed.), France on Film: Reflections on Contemporary Popular French Cinema, pp. 145-159. London: Wallflower, 2001.
• M. Beugnet, ‘Encoding loss: Corporeality and (im)materiality in the age of the digital,’ Studies in French Cinema 12:3 (2012) (on Dans ma peau).


WEEK 7: REPRESENTING THE ‘CRISIS OF MASCULINITY’ [and further discussion of assessment]
Viewing: Ma femme est une actrice (Yvan Attal, 2001)
• Extract from Christine Bard, ‘Les antiféministes de la deuxième vague.’ In C. Bard (ed.), Un siècle d’antiféminisme, pp. 312-26. Available through course scans webpage.
• David Shumway, ‘Relationship Stories.’ In Modern Love: Romance, Intimacy and the Marriage Crisis, pp. 157-87. New York: New York University Press, 2003.
• Kathleen Rowe, The Unruly Woman, pp. 191-200. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1995. To be collected from box outside my office.

Further viewing: Les Apprentis (Pierre Salvadori 1995), Mensonges et trahisons et plus si affinités… (Laurent Tirard 2004), Ils se marièrent et eurent beaucoup d’enfants (Yvan Attal 2004)

Further reading:

On Ma Femme:

• A. Smith, ‘Men in Unfamiliar Places: A Response to Phil Powrie.’ In W. Higby and S. Leahy (eds), Studies in French Cinema: UK Perspectives,1985–2010, pp.177–191. Bristol and Chicago: Intellect, 2011.
• M. Harrod, ‘Franglais, Anglais and Contemporary French Comedy,’ in M. Harrod, M. Liz and A. Timoshkina (eds), The Europeanness of European Cinema: Identity, Meaning, Globalization. London: I.B. Tauris, forthcoming December 2014. (E-mail me to request a copy.)
• Extract from M. Harrod, ‘Sexual and Other Economies,’ in From France With Love: Gender and Identity in French Romantic Comedy, pp. 91-100. London: I. B. Tauris, 2015.

• C. Deleyto, ‘The Comic, the Serious and the Middle: Desire and Space in Contemporary Romantic Comedy.’ Journal of Popular Romance Studies 2:1 (2011). Available online
• R. Connell, ‘The Great Pretender: Variations on the New Man Theme,’ in Chapman and J. Rutherford (eds), Male Order: Unwrapping Masculinity (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1988), pp.225-148.
• R. Connell, Masculinities, University of California Press, 2005.
• P. Powrie, B. Babington and A. Davies, The Trouble with Men: Masculinities in European and Hollywood Cinema, London: Wallflower, 2005.

Primary reading: Fred Vargas, Sous les vents de Neptune (2002)

• Susan Sellers, ‘Towards an écriture féminine.’ In S. Sellers, Language and Sexual Difference: Feminist Writing in France, pp. 131-61. London: Macmillan, 1991. Available through course scans webpage.
• Patricia Osganian, ‘Le monde des exclus de Fred Vargas : l’épopée de la rue contre le réalisme social.’ In Mouvements 4 (1999). Available online
• Sarah Poole, ‘Rompols, not of the Bailey: Fred Vargas and the polar as mini-proto-mythe,' French Cultural Studies 12 (2001), pp. 95-108.

Further reading:
• F. Vargas, Debout les morts (1995)
• F. Vargas, L’Armée furieuse (2011

• David Platten, 'Mapping Minds and Figuring Plots: the Novels of Fred Vargas,' in Platten, The Pleasures of Crime: Reading Modern French Crime Fiction (Rodopi, 2011), pp. 221-51

Viewing: Un Gars, Une Fille – Londres (Season 3) (France 2: 1999-2003) (also available subtitled on Youtube and Engrenages Series One, Episode One (Canal +, 2005 - ).

• Adele King, ‘Forms and Themes,’ in A. King, French Women Novelists: Defining a Female Style, pp.41-56. Basingstoke, Hants. and London: Macmillan, 1989. Available through course scans webpage.
• Judith Butler, ‘Conclusion: From Parody to Politics.’ In J. Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, pp. 194-203. London and New York: Routledge, 2006. Available through course scans webpage.
• Janet McCabe (ed.), ‘Exporting French Crime: The Engrenages/Spiral Dossier.’ Critical Studies in Television 7:2, Autumn 2012: 100-118.

Further viewing: Prime Suspect (Granada Television, 1991); Sex and the City (Darren Star Productions/ HBO/Sex and the City Productions, 1998 -2004); Ally McBeal (Fox, 1997-2002).

For Un gars, une fille:

• Delphine Chedaleux, ‘Déclinaisons de la masculinité dans les comédies françaises : le cas Jean Dujardin,’ Mise au Point 6 (2014). Available online.

More general/background:

• L. Mazdon, 'French Television: Negotiating the National Popular,' in D. Holmes and D. Loosely (eds), Imagining the Popular in Contemporary French Culture, pp. 162-94. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013.
• D. Jermyn, 'It's a Fair Cop: Women and TV Crime Drama.' In D. Jermyn, Prime Suspect, pp. 29-68. London: BFI/Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.
• J. Hermes, ‘“Ally McBeal”, “Sex and the City” and the Tragic Success of Feminism.’ In J. Hollows and R. Moseley (eds), Feminism in Popular Culture, pp. 79-97. Oxford and New York: Berg, 2006. Available through course scans webpage.

Primary reading: Various short articles to be circulated.

• Rosalind Gill, ‘News, Gender and Journalism.’ In Gender and the Media, pp.113-150. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2007. Available through course scans webpage.
• Fran Tonkiss, ‘Analysing Text and Speech: Content and Discourse Analysis.’ In C. Seale (ed.), Researching Society and Culture, pp.367-383. London: Sage, 2000. Available through course scans webpage.
• Lucy Wadham, ‘Sarkozy and the End of Ideology.’ In L. Wadham, The Secret Life of France, pp. 226-242. London: Faber & Faber, 2010. Available through course scans webpage.

Further viewing: Welcome to New York (Abel Ferrara, USA 2014)

Further reading:

• Muriel Rouyer, ‘The Strauss-Kahn Affair and the Culture of Privacy: Mistreating and Misrepresenting Women in the French Public Sphere.’ Women’s Studies International Forum 41 (2013), pp. 187-96.
• Kathy Davis, ‘“Stand by your Man” or: How Feminism Was Framed in the DSK affair,’ European Journal of Women’s Studies 19:3 (2012).
• J.-C. Sergeant, ‘From press barons to digital TV: changing media in France.’ In W. Kidd and S. Reynolds (eds), Contemporary French Cultural Studies, pp.229-244. London: Hodder Arnold, 2000.
• Stephen Alomes, 'Celebrity meets Populism in Europe: The Political Performances of Nicolas Sarkozy and Silvio Berlusconi,' Australian and New Zealand Journal of European Studies, Vol. 2012 (2)-2013 (1) (e-mail to request a copy).