Girls on the Edge: Liminality

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:
Girls on the Edge: Liminality

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This chapter forms a hermeneutic of francophone films in which lesbian desire is a borderline case, situated on the edges of intelligibility. Before turning to Clare Whatling's ‘thrill of the forbidden’ (and questioning its political implications), it examines certain less exhilarating permutations on the liminally lesbian model. The chapter analyses these permutations in the following order: location of lesbian desire in an outsider figure; disavowal of lesbian identification despite obvious lesbian desire; the frequent influence of men or of the masculine, including the role of men when visibly present – typically, in triangular structures; women's defection from a lesbian relationship into the arms of a man through bad faith/internalised lesbophobia; machismo in butch lesbian characters; the lesbian figure and/or couple as eroticised object of the voyeuristic male gaze within the diegesis; and, finally, the role of men through their absence, giving rise to the possibility of an all-female space. In the case of triangulations, the liminality is merely a function of that set structure, and does not by any means always lend itself to particularly lesbo-appropriative readings.

Keywords: Clare Whatling; lesbian desire; francophone films; liminality; machismo; men; lesbophobia; male gaze; forbidden; lesbian identification

Chapter.  25893 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Film

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