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More in this section Undergraduate

Women's Cinema

Tutor: Various

Teaching: 10hrs lecture, 10 hrs seminar

Value: ½ units

Availability: Autumn or Spring

Aims and Objectives:


The student will have acquired knowledge of a specific area of media theory, broadened their knowledge of film and television texts and consolidated the work undertaken in the first year on textual analysis and media history.



This course offers an introduction to women’s cinema (what exactly constitutes ‘women’s cinema’ will form part of the discussion) and more generally the importance of gender politics to an understanding of film. The focus will be on films from the 1980s to the present day, but students will gain a further sense of women’s cinema history in the first two weeks. Films studied across the term’s course will raise different questions about representation, gender politics, film style and identity. Week 1 will look at the history of feminism and feminist theory examining the work of Dorothy Arzner (one of very few women directors to make ‘A’ movies within the Hollywood studio system). Week 2 will focus on the directing work of Ida Lupino, ‘queen of the B movies’.  Weeks 3 - 5 will focus on the development of a specifically feminist film theory, using psychoanalysis, L’Ecriture Feminine and the Cultural Studies interventions and will start an ongoing discussion about lesbianism and film. The remainder of the course will focus on Case Studies from a variety of film institutions (Hollywood, independent American cinema, New Zealand cinema, American and European new queer cinema, independent black women’s cinema). Each week students will watch one or two films and read and prepare notes on designated reading material. Teaching will be via structured seminar discussions and student presentations (each student will be required to do one seminar paper through the course of the term), with the lecturer giving a short lecture at the outset if necessary.



Students will be required to attend at least 70% of the course or they will automatically fail (unless an adequate medical or other certificate is produced). If a student misses a seminar presentation or does not do the required course work one week, this will count as a missed seminar. Final assessment is by means of one 4,000—5,000 word essay handed in at the beginning of the following vacation.


Week 1 Film

Craig’s Wife, Dorothy Arzner, US, 1936


*Johnston, Claire, ‘Women’s cinema as counter cinema’, in

Movies and Methods II

, (ed. Bill Nichols, University of Cal Press, 1982), pp 315 – 26.

* Kuhn, Annette ‘Passionate Detachment’,

Women’s Pictures: Feminism and Cinema [2nd edition], London:Verso, 1994.

Week 2 Film

Hard, Fast and Beautiful, Ida Lupino, US, 1951


* Merck, Mandy ‘Hard, Fast and Beautiful’, In Your Face: 9 Sexual Studies (New York University Press, 2000)

*Mulvey, Laura, ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’, inFeminism and Film Theory, ed Constance Penley, Routledge 1988).

Week 3 Film

A Question Of Silence, Marlene Gorris, Holland, 1981


*Michelle Citron, Julie LeSage, Judith Mayne, B Ruby Rich, Anna Marie Taylor and the eds of New German Critique, ‘Women and Film: a discussion of feminist aesthetics.’ (1978), in Thornham 1999, pp 115-21.

* Urbano, Cosimo ‘A Question of Narrative: Notes on a radical horror parody’,CineAction No. 37, June 1995, 29—37.

*Williams, Linda, ‘A jury of their peers: Marlene Gorris’sA Question of Silence, in (ed, Kaplan, E Ann, Postmodernism and its Discontents:  Theories, Practices, London: (Verso, 1988), pp 107 – 115.

Week 4 Film(s)

Three Men and a Cradle, Coline Serreau, France, 1985

Men …, Dorris Dorrie, W. Germany, 1985


* selection from

Camera Obscura 20—21, May—Sept. 1989 (special issue on spectatorship)

* Stacey, Jackie ‘From the Male Gaze to the Female Spectator’, Star Gazing: Hollywood Cinema and Female Spectatorship, London: Routledge, 1994.

Week 5 Film

Working Girls, Lizzie Borden, US, 1986.


*de Lauretis, Teresa ‘Guerrilla in the midst: women’s cinema in the 1980s’, Screen 31:1, Spring 1990, 6—25.

* Beauvais, Paul Jude ‘Lizzie Borden’s Working Girls: Interpretation and the Limits of Ideology’, Post Script, 10:2, 1991, 50—63.

Week 6 Film

Desert Hearts, Donna Deitch, 1985

* Kuhn, Annette ‘The Wild Zone’, Women’s Pictures [see above], 218—51.

* Stacey, Jackie ‘If You Don’t Play, You Can’t Win:

Desert Hearts and the Lesbian Romance Film’, in ed. Tamsin Wilton Immortal Invisible: Lesbians and the Moving Image, London: Routledge, 1995

Week 7 Films

Virgin Machine, Monica Treut, 1988.

Go Fish, Rose Troche, 1992


*Knight, Julia, ‘The Meaning of Treut’ in Wilton, Tamsin, Immortal Invisible: Lesbians and the Moving Image, (Routledge, 1995)

* Pidduck, Julianne ‘After 1980: Margins and Mainstreams’, in Richard Dyer Now You See It: Studies on Lesbian and Gay Film [2nd edition], London: Routledge 2003, 265—306.



Further reading to be handed out in class

Week 8 Films

The Piano, Jane Campion, New Zealand, 1993.

Daughters of the Dust, Julie Dash, US 1992


Biccum, April ‘Third Cinema in the “First” World’: Eve’s Bayou, Daughters of the Dust’, CineAction, No.49, Summer 1999, 60—4.

*Bruzzi, Stella, ‘Tempestuous Petticoats: costume and desire in The Piano, Screen 36:3, Autumn 1995, pp 257 – 266.

See also in same issue:

Dyson, Linda, ‘Return of the Repressed?  Whiteness, Femininity and Colonialism inThe Piano,’ Screen, vol 35, no 3 (Autumn 1995): pp 267 – 276.

Gillett, ‘Lips and Fingers: Jane Campion’s The Piano’, in Screen, vol 36, no 3 (Autumn 1995), pp 277 – 287.

* Gibson-Hudson, Gloria J. ‘The Ties that Bind: Cinematic Representations by Black Women Filmmakers’ Quarterly Review of Film and Video, 15:2, July 1994, 25—44.

* Hardy, Ann ‘The Last Patriarch’, inJane Campion’s ‘The Piano’, ed. Harriet Margolis, CUP, 2000, 59—85.

* hooks, bell ‘The Oppositional Gaze’, inFeminist Film Theory: A Reader, Edinburgh UP, 1999, 308—20.

Week 9 Film

Boys Don’t Cry, Kimberley Peirce, 1999


* Various essays in the Screen ‘The Boys Don’t Cry Debate’, published 2001—2002. See photocopies for details

Week 10 Films

Point Break, Kathryn Bigelow, 1991

What Women Want, Nancy Meckler, 2001



*Tasker, Yvonne, Chapt 8, ‘The cinema as experience’, in Spectacular Bodies: Gender, Genre and the Action Cinema, (Routledge, 1993), pp 153 – 166.






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