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«Plaisirs de femmes»

Women, Pleasure and Transgression in French Literature and Culture

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Edited By Maggie Allison, Elliot Evans and Carrie Tarr

Feminist approaches to questions of women, pleasure and transgression have generally been premised on the assumption that women’s pleasures are typically constrained – if not ignored, marginalized or forbidden – in patriarchal cultures. The naming, foregrounding and pursuit of women’s pleasures can therefore be deemed potentially transgressive and linked to women’s emancipation in other realms. The essays in this volume draw on a range of materials, from travel writing and the novel to film and stand-up comedy, addressing the specificity of French and Francophone approaches to women, pleasure and transgression across a range of historical contexts.

The volume is divided into three sections: intellectual and creative pleasures; normative pleasures, that is, pleasures conforming to women’s conventionally expected roles and status as well as to accepted views regarding race, national identity and sexuality; and perverse pleasures, that is, pleasures transgressive in their tendency to reject authority and norms, and often controversial in their «excessive» appetite for violence, sex, alcohol or food. In each case, questions are raised about how we approach such pleasures as feminist researchers, motivated in part by a desire to counter the notion of feminism and feminist research as something «dour» or joyless.

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3 Pleasure, Pain and Subversion in Agnès Varda’s L’Opéra Mouffe [Diary of a Pregnant Woman] (1958) (Rebecca J. Deroo)

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Rebecca J. Deroo

3 Pleasure, Pain and Subversion in Agnès Varda’s L’Opéra Mouffe [Diary of a Pregnant Woman] (1958)

In 1957, filmmaker Agnès Varda was invited by Jacques Ledoux, curator of the Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique, to submit a short film for the 1958 Experimental Film Festival he was organizing at the World Fair in Brussels. One of the few female directors working in France in the 1950s, Varda had made La Pointe courte, her first feature-length film, in 1954, followed by the short film Ô saisons, ô châteaux (1957), commissioned by the French Tourism Bureau. Varda recounts that she enjoyed creative freedom in making L’Opéra Mouffe, which she produced herself via her production company, Ciné-Tamaris (Varda 1994: 114, 230). She shot the film with a borrowed 16-millimetre camera, while standing on a folding chair in the street, and pregnant with her daughter Rosalie.

L’Opéra Mouffe [Diary of a Pregnant Woman] is an experimental 16-minute film that was shot without sound, and that has an accompanying score by Georges Delerue and lyrics and intertitles by Varda. Set in the rue Mouffetard, a market street in the 5th arrondissement of Paris, it contrasts painful sequences of the street’s hungry, homeless population with shots of fertile produce on display. The film does not follow a linear narrative. It is composed of a series of nine vignettes introduced by intertitles such as ‘des amoureux’, ‘de l’ivresse’, ‘de la grossesse’, ‘des...

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