Catherine Breillat's Romance and Anatomy of Hell: Subjectivity and the Gendering of Sexuality

Marya T. Mtshali, Breanne Fahs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Abstract: French filmmaker Catherine Breillat has consistently challenged viewers to consider the ways women negotiate sexual freedom in light of numerous forces of repression. This essay considers how Breillat's depiction of women's sexuality in Romance and Anatomy of Hell simultaneously evokes abjection and empowerment. Specifically, we consider Breillat's contrast between her female protagonists and male protagonists, her treatment of women and their bodies as infused with desire yet struggling towards sexual subjectivity, and the avenues available to women to define themselves outside of hegemonic masculinity. We argue that Breillat's provocative portrayals provoke consideration of the problems inherent in hegemonic female sexuality while also offering hopeful alternatives to sexual expression, sexual freedom, and changing definitions of power and pleasure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)160-175
Number of pages16
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 5 2014



  • Catherine Breillat
  • feminist film
  • French film
  • sexual desire
  • sexual subjectivity
  • women's sexuality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Cultural Studies
  • Literature and Literary Theory

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