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Lesbian Cinema after Queer Theory

Clara Bradbury-Rance

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A sustained analysis of twenty-first century lesbian cinema through a queer theoretical lens

The unprecedented increase in lesbian representation over the past two decades has, paradoxically, coincided with queer theory’s radical transformation of the study of sexuality. In Lesbian Cinema after Queer Theory, Clara Bradbury-Rance argues that this contradictory context has yielded new kinds of cinematic language through which to give desire visual form. By offering close readings of key contemporary films such as Blue Is the Warmest Colour, Water Lilies and Carol alongside a broader filmography encompassing over 300 other films released between 1927 and 2018, the book provokes new ways of understanding a changing field of representation.

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Table of Figures


Introduction: Looking after Lesbian Cinema

1. The Woman (Doubled): Mulholland Drive and the Figure of the Lesbian

2. Merely Queer: Translating Desire in Nathalie… and Chloe

3. Anywhere in the World: Circumstance, Space and the Desire for Outness

4. In-Between Touch: Queer Potential in Water Lilies and She Monkeys

5. The Politics of the Image: Sex as Sexuality in Blue is the Warmest Colour

6. Looking at Carol: The Drift of New Queer Pleasures

Conclusion: The Queerness of Lesbian Cinema




About the Author

Clara Bradbury-Rance is an Early Career Fellow in Liberal Arts at King’s College London. Her research interests largely focus on the intersectional study of sexuality and gender in film and popular culture, with an increasing focus on new media and politics. She teaches on queer and feminist theory, popular culture and digital culture. Clara has published several book chapters and articles, and presented in academic and non-academic settings, on queer and lesbian cinema, postfeminism and adolescence.


Twenty-first century cinema has so far yielded an extraordinarily rich array of works—by directors male and female, queer and straight, arthouse and independent—that feature lesbian figures, desires, and dilemmas. Bradbury-Rance’s book is the definitive study of these films. Showing how cinema stages key dramas of gender, sex, and visibility for the digital age, Bradbury-Rance convincingly restores the lesbian to debates in queer theory

- Professor Patricia White, Swarthmore College

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