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«Plaisirs de femmes»

Women, Pleasure and Transgression in French Literature and Culture


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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List of Illustrations



Figure 3.1: Varda’s shot of the young woman in L’Opéra Mouffe (Agnès Varda, 1958) evokes Diego Velázquez’s Toilet of Venus. Diego Rodriguez Velázquez, The Toilet of Venus, 1647–1651. © National Gallery, London / Art Resource, NY.

Figure 3.2: Varda’s shot of the nude woman in L’Opéra Mouffe (Agnès Varda, 1958) references Man Ray’s Violin d’Ingres. Man Ray, Le Violin d’Ingres, 1924. © Man Ray 2015 Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY / ADAGP, Paris. Image courtesy of Banque d’Images ADAGP / Art Resource, NY.

Figure 3.3: The film cuts from shots of a woman’s pregnant belly to a round pumpkin at the market, which is sliced in two and its seeds removed. Agnès Varda, L’Opéra Mouffe, 1958.

Figure 3.4: The shot of a dove in a glass vessel suggests pregnancy; the slow-motion sequence of a shattering glass bulb containing an embryonic chick suggests miscarriage. Agnès Varda, L’Opéra Mouffe, 1958.

Figure 3.5: At the end of the film, the pregnant women purchases a bouquet and eats a rose. Agnès Varda, L’Opéra Mouffe, 1958.

Figure 3.6: The film’s opening title (above). The image of a pregnant woman behind a curtain from the opening credits (below). Agnès Varda, L’Opéra Mouffe, 1958.←ix | x→

Figure 4.1: Blanche Gardin in performance in Je parle toute seule. Source: .

Figure 5.1: Antoine...

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