Journal Article

Redeeming Sexual Violence? A Feminist Reading of <i>Breaking the Waves</i>

Alyda Faber

in Literature and Theology

Volume 17, issue 1, pages 59-75
Published in print March 2003 | ISSN: 0269-1205
Published online March 2003 | e-ISSN: 1477-4623 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/litthe/17.1.59
Redeeming Sexual Violence? A Feminist Reading of Breaking the Waves

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Important essays by Stephen Heath, Kyle Keefer, Tod Linafelt, and Irena Makarushka on Lars von Trier's Breaking the Waves (1996) contend that the film's characterisation of Bess represents her sexuality as a transgressive force for goodness. Catherine MacKinnon and Julia Kristeva, however, challenge the notion of the emanicipatory powers of transgressive sexuality: they theorise how assignments of ‘perverse’ sexualities constitute patriarchal hierarchies and orders. From this critical perspective, I argue that von Trier represents Bess's ‘goodness’ as masochistic debility, a dubious construction that valorises male domination and invests sexual violence with redemptive meaning.

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Subjects: Literature ; Religion and Art, Literature, and Music

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