Mad Girls: Pathology

Lucille Cairns

in Sapphism on Screen

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print March 2006 | ISBN: 9780748621651
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748651108 | DOI:
Mad Girls: Pathology

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This chapter examines pathology, or lesbianism, as sickness. The discursive shift from condemning lesbians as sinful to certifying them as ill was largely prompted by the birth of sexology in the second half of the nineteenth century, then of psychoanalysis at the start of the twentieth. In the twenty-first century, psychoanalytic dogma still holds astonishing sway in critical practices, and it is certainly at the origin of most contemporary models – be they clinical or more widely cultural – of lesbianism outside those affirmative models elaborated by lesbians themselves in the post-1968 period. The chief avatar of this pathologising paradigm in French and francophone films is narcissistic fusion. All of these models intersect to some extent with the second most prominent variant of the pathologising paradigm of lesbianism: the mother–daughter model. The chapter also looks at films that have sado-masochism as a common theme, including Luis Buñuel's Belle de Jour (1967), Guy Casaril's Le Rempart des Béguines (1972) and Claude Chabrol's Les Biches (1968).

Keywords: Belle de Jour; pathology; lesbianism; sickness; narcissistic fusion; mother–daughter model; sado-masochism; Rempart des Béguines; francophone films; Les Biches

Chapter.  17670 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Film

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