Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Sapphism on Screen

Sapphism on Screen: Lesbian Desire in French and Francophone Cinema

Lucille Cairns
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 232
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Sapphism on Screen
    Book Description:

    A study of lesbian desire in French and Francophone films.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-2663-2
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Author’s Note
    (pp. vii-vii)
  5. Illustrations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  6. CHAPTER ONE Lesbian Desire in Film: Coming to Terms
    (pp. 1-18)

    This monograph investigates the traces and spaces of lesbian desire in a large corpus of films directed by both male and female directors, mainly from France but also from French-speaking parts of Belgium, Canada, Switzerland and Africa (Senegal). The absence of reference to other francophone countries is a correlate of the absence within them, at least so far, of directors who have treated inter-female desire. Spanning the period 1936—2002, the corpus numbers eighty-nine texts. A fair number of these are mainstream films that have achieved high critical acclaim and/or high viewing figures – to cite just a few examples: Henri-Georges...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Bad Girls: Criminality
    (pp. 19-51)

    As was signposted in Chapter 1, Chapters 2 and 3 will examine the two most salient lesbian paradigms (even, it is arguable, archetypes) in the corpus of eighty-nine films spanning the period 1936—2002. My temporal treatment of these two paradigms — first criminality, then pathology — broadly refers to the Foucauldian genealogy of discourses on homosexuality generally (for which read male homosexuality: amongst Foucault’s many strong points, gender-sensitivity was conspicuous by its absence).¹ This genealogy posits a discursive shift ‘from sin to sickness’. Whilst sin and criminality are, of course, not conceptually identical, they are sufficiently proximate to justify invoking the...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Mad Girls: Pathology
    (pp. 52-90)

    In terms of discursive chronology, Chapter 2 investigated the first of the two most salient lesbian paradigms in the corpus: criminality and pathology. Criminality was historically conceptualised as sin or vice, but in the context of religious decline I have interpreted it more widely to encompass transgression of man-made and ‘natural’ as well as putatively divine laws. The present chapter will examine the second of those two dominant paradigms: pathology, or lesbianism, as sickness. (Transgression of ‘natural’ laws differs from pathology in that sickness is involuntary, transgression intentional.) The discursive shift from condemning lesbians¹ as sinful to certifying them as...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Girls on the Edge: Liminality
    (pp. 91-149)

    This chapter forms a hermeneutic of films in which lesbian desire is a borderline case, situated on the edges of intelligibility. It scrutinises two discrete categories of filmic moments: those that mediate desire between women as implicit or latent; and, to a lesser extent (lesser only because there is less germane material available), those in which desire between women forms a queer rather than an unproblematically lesbian current. Whilst wary of unrestrained voluntarism, and certainly not intent on imagining lesbian desire as a truly constant if censored presence in French and Francophone cinema, I consider the points made by Lynda...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Girls on Top: Sapphology
    (pp. 150-190)

    This chapter spotlights certain filmic moments which either resist the two stigmatising models of lesbianism discussed in Chapters 2 and 3, or transcend the encryptedness of those treated in Chapter 4. As such, and within the more gay-friendly (Western) episteme of the twenty-first century, these filmic moments may provide less limiting perspectives on inter-female desire — may, indeed, herald a new ‘science’ of lesbianism — what the present chapter’s title archly alludes to as sapphology. This more upbeat agenda could, of course, be accused of pursuing a naïve positive images agenda. Ellis Hanson identifies one salient model of lesbian- and gay-oriented film...

  11. CHAPTER SIX Conclusion
    (pp. 191-197)

    This brief concluding chapter has three aims. The first is to provide for the corpus an overview which locates broad shifts in French/francophone cinematic mediations of lesbian desire from 1936 to 2002. The second is to consider to what extent national specificities have emerged: that is, differences between films from metropolitan France and from francophone Belgium, Canada, Switzerland and Africa. The third is to tease out the implications of the predominance of femme as opposed to butch lesbian configurations within the corpus as a whole.

    Quantitative surveys are usually regarded as the methodological preserve not of cinema studies, but rather...

  12. Annotated Filmography
    (pp. 198-209)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 210-214)
  14. Index
    (pp. 215-224)