Feminist or misogynist? A psychoanalytic reading of this controversial film offers some clues.
If Michael Haneke’s new film The Piano Teacher (La Pianiste) ever makes it to the English-speaking world, it will be interesting to see what kind of response it receives from feminists in particular. Winner of the three major prizes at Cannes, including Best Film, Best Actor, and Best Actress, The Piano Teacher is the story of Erika, a brilliant pianist and teacher who has sacrificed a romantic life for her career. Although it is based on a novel, the film appears to have been produced in response to French psychoanalytic feminist film theory. In fact, La Pianiste at times seems like an introduction to the writings of Freud and his French disciple, Jacques Lacan – not to mention French philosopher and film and literary critic Gilles Deleuze.1
In its heyday, psychoanalytic feminist film theory tended to be unintelligible to anyone outside of what were themselves highly circumscribed scholarly circles, so dependent was this theory upon the dense writings of Lacan. Lacan’s work is rooted in a careful rereading of Freud through the structuralist linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure. Specifically, Lacan reads Freud’s (in) famous Oedipus complex in linguistic terms, the Oedipal triangle being the means by which we acquire language. Reread in this way, the Oedipus complex explains, among other things, why, in a sexist culture, women’s words don’t carry the same authority as those of men. At times tortuous, full of puns, syntactical pyrotechnics, and dense philosophical references, Lacan’s work was on the one hand appropriated by some feminists as a brilliant rumination on how culture subjugates women, and was accused by others of reinforcing that very subjugation.
Today, some knowledge of Lacanian film theory is de riguer among film scholars in the U.S. and U.K. in particular, although few people remain hard-core practitioners of this extremely specialized analytical paradigm. This is not to suggest, as is often proclaimed in both the U.S. popular and academic presses, that even the French don’t read French theory anymore. In fact, the Franco-German television station Arte, the equivalent of the U.S.’s PBS, recently ran a portrait of Lacan that included lucid explanations of his major theoretical statements and footage of Lacan himself lecturing on psychoanalysis. What it does suggest is that some of Lacan’s ideas have become part of the “common sense” of contemporary film scholarship.
The critical success of The Piano Teacher provides evidence that Lacanian film theory has now managed to “trickle down” to the popular imaginary. The appropriation of Lacan by director Haneke necessarily revitalizes, however, some of the same concerns that accompanied Lacan’s entrée into academic film circles. Specifically: The Piano Teacher is a film about the impossibility of female desire. Erika cannot find pleasure in the arms of her young male lover. Whether or not this makes Haneke’s film “feminist” or “misogynist” depends upon a number of factors, including both one’s reading of Lacan and one’s reading of the film. My guess is that, if the film does arrive in the Anglophone world, it will be greeted as either a brilliant comment on the violence patriarchal culture does to women, or as a disturbingly familiar attempt to blame women for their own oppression.
Both of these readings might themselves be challenged by those more versed in Lacan, as Lacan himself insisted that desire itself cannot be fulfilled, that the sexual can never make good on its promise to make us “whole,” and that women’s bodies are “misread” by patriarchal culture as castrated in a desperate attempt by men to deny the unavoidable sense of “loss” that is the precondition of being. For, according to Lacan, we are all “castrated”; the price of the transition from the small human animal dependent upon its mother to the autonomous, independent being Lacan calls “the subject” is a sense of ourselves as “split,” never quite coinciding with ourselves, and a submission to the laws of culture – particularly those laws that demand that we take up a position (in language and culture) as either a man or woman. Language is both compensation for that split, in that it promises, through communication, to reunite us with our self and others, as well as what psychoanalytic critics term “symptomatic” of that split. For language can always be misread. The fact that language is always composed of metaphors means that it can always be misinterpreted, and so language itself can’t make good on its promises, either.
In any case, there are a number of ways in which the film appears to be referencing the theories of Lacan. Erika, played by Isabelle Huppert, is a woman in her forties who lives with her overbearing and protective mother, played by Annie Girardot. The two women share the same bed, and even the single room Erika has to herself has no lock on its door. The very first scene of the film presents an argument between Erika and her mother over the fact that Erika has returned home late. Her mother grabs her purse from her, searches it, and discovers a dress, at which point the two women struggle – a struggle that turns physical. The scene ends with Erika in tears, apologizing to her mother and checking her mother’s scalp to see if it is sore from the hair pulling that occurred during their fight.
Erika’s mother appears to represent the (phallic) Lacanian pre-Oedipal mother, the mother who is both adored and feared by the child because of the child’s dependence on her and its closeness to her body – a closeness that requires the child to misapprehend its mother as part of itself and fear incorporation by the mother. There are a number of different ways the film reinforces both this sense of Erika’s mother as “phallic,” and the lack of distance between the two women. Erica’s father is physically absent from the film entirely. A musician who had himself gone mad, he is long dead when the film begins. His connection to Erika is reinforced by the fact that both of them are particularly fond of the music of Schubert and Schumann. The choice of these composers is not accidental, Schubert – rumored to have had homosexual relationships – having died of syphilis, and Schumann having himself gone mad. Both composers thus reference in different ways a relationship among great works of art, insanity, and gender identity – Schumann having been in his later years dependent upon his wife Clara, herself a composer of some talent whose gifts were overshadowed by her husband’s.
One of the earliest scenes of the film presents a recital in which Erika performs. Immediately after the recital, her mother rushes to cover Erika’s shoulders with a sweater, and during the reception following the performance, she attempts at all times to keep Erika in her sight. We learn shortly that Erika must concoct lies to escape her mother’s gaze. She goes to great lengths to disguise her sexual desires from her mother, while at the same time fantasizing about forcing her mother to confront them. Thus the significance of finding the dress in Erika’s purse. When her young lover comes to visit her at home, Erika and he must move her dresser in front of the door to keep her mother from entering.
According to Freud, prior to the Oedipus complex, the child is polymorphously perverse; that is, it receives sexual gratification from bodily functions and sensations not directly tied to sexual intercourse. What Freud termed a “pervert” is someone whose sexual energy or libido has not been properly “organized” so as to allow for the finding of satisfaction in genital sexuality. While residues of this earlier pre-Oedipal period remain in adult sexuality in such forms as the pleasure provided by activities like kissing, oral sex, and fantasies of sexual aggression and domination, the “normal” adult finds satisfaction in these activities inasmuch as they culminate in genital intercourse. For Freud, a pervert is someone who can only achieve sexual satisfaction through means other than genital intercourse.
The pre-Oedipal child also has no awareness of sexual difference. As a result, it does not see sexual activity as divided into a masculine “activity” and a feminine “passivity.” It does not yet recognize the historical and cultural taboos that prevent women, for example, from finding pleasure in what are often considered culturally to be “masculine” activities – watching porn, for example. Its earliest sexual pleasure is “masculine” in that it takes the form of masturbation. In the case of the female child, it is the clitoris in particular that defines her sexuality. For Freud, the development of a mature femininity requires the girl to give up this attachment to the clitoris and replace it with vaginal sexuality.
In their re-readings of Freud in particular, Lacanian feminists emphasize the fact that Freud is describing cultural and not biological processes. Or rather, they emphasize those passages in Freud where he draws attention to the fact that we are born human animals but are required by culture to become men and women. The Oedipus complex is thus a cultural phenomenon. It arises from such regulations, mores, and signifying practices as the incest taboo, the placing of the burden of childcare on the mother, the overvaluing of masculinity that takes the symbolic form of a misreading of the penis as the guarantee of power and privilege, and the insistence that female pleasure remain “passive” (vaginal) rather than “active” (clitoridal). While Freud himself sometimes reinforces these phallocentric ideals, his feminist readers are interested in particular in those passages in his work where he falters or contradicts himself – i.e., those places where he recognizes the role culture plays in the transition from infantile to adult sexuality, and where he acknowledges that biology need not in fact be destiny.
Erika is what Freud would term polymorphously perverse. This is not a “subtext” of the film made visible through a psychoanalytic reading. Rather, much of the film is spent carefully detailing Erika’s perversions. They include auto-mutilation of her genitals with a razor, voyeurism, taking sexual pleasure in urination, sadism, and masochism. In an early sequence, we see Erika aggressively enter the space of a porn arcade. Waiting for a booth to become free, she unashamedly returns the gazes of the men in the store who stare at her. Once she enters the video booth, she channel-surfs through a number of images before settling on a film depicting a woman lying on her back on a table while fellating a man. As Erica watches the film, she reaches into a waste-paper basket and pulls from it the tissues used by a previous occupant to wipe up his ejaculate. She inhales the tissue deeply while watching the film, her face revealing her pleasure. At no time in the film is Erika pictured having “normal” genital intercourse. In fact, all of her attempts at such intercourse fail.
Erika is also “masculinized” – and it is important to recall that, prior to the Oedipus complex, there is only one gender, and it is phallic – not only by her desires, but in her career. The film portrays her as a strict and cold teacher. As her students play, she stands at the window, her arms crossed, occasionally criticizing their work. Near the beginning of the film, we see a series of shots of her students’ hands as they play, and Erika’s sharp voice providing instructions. This coldness, bordering at times on the cruel, is contrasted sharply in the film by her brilliant and moving piano playing, suggesting the complexity of her relationship to gender. For to be a professional female pianist means to compete in what is still chiefly a man’s domain, a domain that is itself sometimes contradictorily constructed as “feminine” if not” effeminate.” Again, Erika’s fondness for Schubert and Schumann is significant, as both men were “sickly” – an attribute heterosexist culture sometimes assigns to effeminate or homosexual men.
After initially rebuffing his advances, Erika falls in love with Walter, one of her brilliant young male students, played by Benoît Magimel. Walter is initially attracted to Erika’s talent. When he tries to gain a place in her master class, she disagrees with her colleagues as to his level of commitment, despite the fact that he has played a superior audition. Not coincidentally, one of the first pieces Walter plays for Erika is by Schubert, as is the piece with which one of her female students struggles throughout the film.
Eventually, however, Erika begins to have feelings for Walter. These feelings lead to their first sexual contact. Early in the film, we see Erika instructing a young female student who is particularly nervous about accompanying a singer in a performance of a Schubert song – so much so that she is reduced to tears. In a scene depicting a public rehearsal for the master class, the film edits together a two-shot of Walter and this student with a close-up of Erika’s face. The two-shot shows Walter making the young woman laugh; he seems to put her at ease just as she is to begin playing the Schubert piece. The reaction shot of Erika’s face is difficult to read at first, but it is followed by a sequence in which Erika smashes a glass and places the shards in the pocket of the student’s coat. Her actions are performed methodically, the glass carefully wrapped in a scarf before being crushed under Erika’s heel. There is a ritual quality about the actions that suggest a staging – one that, as I will argue shortly, seem akin to both pornography and masochism.
The female student’s cry of pain as she places her hand in her coat pocket initiates Erika and Walter’s first sexual encounter. Immediately after the student’s injury is revealed, as the rehearsal is ending, Erika goes to the woman’s room, where she urinates, suggesting a polymorphously perverse orgasmic release. Walter follows her into the women’s restroom and jumps over the top of the stall to watch her – though we are never given access to what he sees. When she exits the stall, he kisses her, and they fall to the restroom floor in a “perverse” re-appropriation of “tearoom” sex: the transformation by men of the public restroom into a space for homoerotic sexual encounters.
But Erika appropriates from him the male prerogative to control the sexual scene. She masturbates Walter. When he tries to embrace her, she tells him to stop. She directs him to look at his penis, not her. Walter says he loves her. In response, she continually tries to dominate the sexual scenario, deciding what they will and won’t do, stopping Walter from pursuing his own desires, and threatening to cease entirely if he does not follow her directions. Eventually, she opens the door of the women’s room and masturbates him while gazing into his face. She then instructs him to masturbate facing her, but he cannot orgasm. When he promises he will be more willing to follow her directions next time, she tells him he will receive detailed instructions in a letter.
According to Freud and his followers, the transition of the female child through the Oedipus complex is particularly perilous, given the initial identification of the female child with her mother. While the “normal” male child passes through the Oedipus complex quickly, the process for the female child is more drawn out. In order to negotiate pre-Oedipal sexuality, the female child must come to hate her mother. She sees the mother as a rival for the father’s affection, and as someone who, like herself, is “castrated.” This shift in her feelings for her mother is necessary to the process of individuation. The female child compensates herself for her “loss” with the fantasy of what Freud termed “penis envy,” the desire to have a penis, which is then replaced by the desire to bear a child and thus provide the father with a substitute for the penis she lacks. This shift in allegiance from the mother to the father is required of “normal” adult heterosexuality.
The narrative trajectory of The Piano Teacher emphasizes the difficulty of this feminine transition to Oedipal sexuality. In a letter he reads in her presence, Erika confesses her masochistic desires to Walter. He is repulsed. Reading the letter aloud herself, she cries as she continues to name her desires. Erika’s fantasy involves a desire to punish the mother by forcing her to witness her transition to genital sexuality. The letter specifically tells Walter to hit Erika if she doesn’t follow his directions. These scenes of reading the letter are intercut with shots of her mother, in a reversal of the primal scene, attempting to eavesdrop on the conversation. At one point, Erika pulls from its hiding place a box of restraints she wishes Walter to use on her. Here, the film suggests implicitly how we might explain the disturbing ubiquity of rape fantasies among women, for such fantasies seem Erika’s only route of escape from her inappropriately “phallic” desires. Apparently shocked and confused by her requests, Walter leaves.
Following this scene is a sequence occurring that same night in which Erika enters the bed she shares with her mother. In what is clearly a reference to pre-Oedipal sexuality, Erica gets on top of her mother, kisses her, and tells her, “I love you.” Her mother is confused, pushing her away and telling her she is crazy. Erika persists, and the mother struggles, suggesting a parody of one version of heterosexual intercourse, in which the female initially struggles against the male’s attempts to satisfy his desires. This acting out of Erika’s “masculinist” desires, placed as it is directly after she has attempted, unsuccessfully, to adopt a feminine passivity in the form of masochism, suggests Erika’s reluctance to abandon her polymorphously perverse pleasures and to submit to the cultural demands of femininity.
In an effort to submit to femininity, Erika follows Walter to a skating arena. This scene is crucial in that it rewrites an earlier sequence at the rink. In the first sequence, it is Erika who controls the gaze. She secretly follows Walter, watching him gather his hockey equipment from his car. In this earlier sequence, we see the ice rink “masculinized” in a way that draws attention to how men culturally occupy space. Two female ice skaters practicing on the ice are crowded off of it by the arrival of two male ice hockey teams. The girls submit grudgingly to being forced out of the space. Their “feminine” demeanor and the poses they adopt while practicing on the ice are contrasted with the boisterous way in which the male teams take the ice. Walter is the single team member to apologize to the two girls, and they smile at him. The film goes to great lengths to characterize Walter as a “sensitive” guy. On more than one occasion, we see the pleasure women take in his company, responding as they do to his talent and boyish charm.
In the locker room, Erika asks to speak to Walter. The teasing of his teammates reinforces the masculinity of the space. Erika and Walter find a supply room in which to talk, where Erika expresses her desire for him and tries to encourage him to have sex with her right on the spot. She apologizes for the letter, and cries. At first, she tries to undo his uniform in order to fellate him. He pushes her away. She then places herself on the floor and tells him to take her. He protests he can’t do it here. “I love you,” she says, kissing him. He relents, comically struggling to free himself from his “masculine” uniform and jock strap. She begins to fellate him again, but then throws up on the floor, instructing Walter to look away.
Ultimately, Walter tries to give Erika what she desires. In the middle of the night, he comes to her home, waking her and her mother. As directed by the letter, he slaps her in front of her mother, and then locks her mother in an adjoining room where she can witness aurally this reversal of the primal scene. Again following the directions of the letter, Walter hits her across the face when she rebuffs his advances. She cries, and her nose bleeds onto her pajamas, but when her mother calls out to her, she tells her that she is fine. Walter then enters her and thrusts into her until he has an orgasm. Throughout this process, Erika is totally unresponsive to him.
The film concludes with Erika stabbing herself just above the heart. In the sequence immediately prior to this conclusion, we see her taking the kitchen knife and putting it in her purse. Her actions seem to have been rendered deliberately ambiguous by the film. We wonder upon whom she will use the knife. As the recital hall fills, Erika appears to be waiting for Walter, reinforcing our suspicion that she will use the knife on him in an act of revenge for “raping” her. Walter arrives shortly before the concert is to begin and greets her as his piano teacher – as if their sadistic encounter has not occurred, and despite the visible evidence of the bruises on her face.
The wound Erika inflicts is ambiguous, as it may or may not be deep enough to penetrate an organ or sever some muscle or tendon in her arm or shoulder – a muscle or tendon possibly required of a pianist. Erika may have replicated the wound she has inflicted on her student, thus “becoming” the insecure girl-child whose nerves Walter had soothed through his masculine charm, as, following the student’s injury, there is some discussion of how her career as a pianist might be affected. The police have suggested a jealous student might have been responsible for the cruel act. In any case, the camera is careful to show us the blood blooming through Erika’s blouse, the visible evidence that she has “become” a woman, the blouse a kind of parody of a blood soaked sanitary napkin. The end of the film is also ambiguous in that she leaves the concert hall to go – where? The ambiguity of the ending is itself “pre-Oedipal.” Unlike the case of the Oedipus complex, there is no “resolution” of Erika’s dilemma.
Some might argue that La Pianiste is in fact a feminist film in that it emphasizes how patriarchal culture renders female desire impossible. Erika is trapped between her “masculine” success as a performer and teacher – a success that seems linked to her “phallic” style of teaching, her unwillingness to be deterred from her career by romantic love, and her relationship with her mother – and a “feminine” desire to feel sexually fulfilled. In its deliberate refusal to allow Erika satisfaction in her role as masochist, the film is a kind of feminist insistence that the “passivity” and masochism forced on women by the patriarchy as a “normal” if “sublimated” aspect of femininity provides no real pleasure for women – or rather does not provide satisfaction to a brilliant and talented woman like Erika. Love “feminizes” Erika – she cries, assigns control of the sexual scene to Walter, invites him to take his pleasure from her. But it doesn’t work. During the “rape” scene, we see none of the pleasure on her face that we have seen in the earlier sequences where she pursues her perversions.
In one such earlier scene, Erika sits on the edge of the bathtub, spreads her legs apart, and cuts her genitals with a razor blade, while watching the act in a hand-held mirror. The release of blood is accompanied by a release of urine, which itself creates for Erika a kind of parody of pre-Oedipal ejaculation, the film emphasizing the physical pleasure the act brings to her. Her urinating is accompanied by moans of pleasure and facial expressions suggesting orgasm. The film repeats this parody of ejaculation in a later scene, when Erika urinates orgasmically in the parking lot of a drive-in after having watched a young couple have sex in a car. When Erika is “caught looking” by the young man, however, she is clearly disturbed rather than pleased, indicating a shame in having been detected pursuing “masculine” desires. As I have already suggested, the trope is repeated a third time, after Erika sees the results of her having placed the glass in her student’s pocket.
Erika’s cutting of her genitals is interrupted when her mother calls her to tell her dinner is ready. Her actions have about them a ritual quality associated with sadomasochistic scenes. The film draws attention, for example, to the way she unwraps and re-wraps the razor blade, storing it in her purse. At dinner, some of the blood seeps down her leg, where it is noticed by her mother, who mistakes it for menstrual blood.
These scenes are complex if “difficult” attempts to re-write femininity under the patriarchy. Erika’s self-mutilation enacts what French philosopher Michel Foucault called “counter-discourse,” an attempt to forge an alternative subjectivity from the one provided by the dominant culture. Erika is in effect saying to the patriarchy, “You want me to be castrated; well, I am.” The pleasure she receives from the act, accompanied as it is by urination, suggests something of the pre-Oedipal “sadistic-anal” stage in which the child takes pleasure in relieving itself – though Freud’s terminology is itself complicated by the film’s attempt to document a specifically female form of desire. Not only because it shows Erika urinating rather than, say, defecating, but because the perversion Erika has fabricated is neither genital nor pre-genital, but a hybrid combination of the two. The mother’s misreading of Erika’s blood shows how Erika has managed to disrupt (patriarchal) signification, substituting one kind of genital “bleeding” for another, for it is the patriarchy that misreads the menses as blood and creates taboos around the touching of both fluids. This re-signification is further complicated by the blood stain on her blouse in the final scene, a “real” bleeding paradoxically creating a visual metaphor for a “blood”-stained menstrual pad. Again, we might read this scene as a feminist counter-discourse that insists, “You want me to bleed? Well, I will.”
In both scenes, the vengeful pre-Oedipal mother interrupts the child’s fantasies. Following the drive-in scene, Erika returns home, where her angry mother greets her, having caught her in a lie – Erika had told her mother she would be rehearsing late, but her mother discovered she was lying by calling one of the musicians with whom she was to rehearse. The fight erupts into mutual face-slapping, emphasizing again the lack of separation between the two women.
Also of pertinence to the film’s feminism is Walter’s ability to become a sadist. Gilles Deleuze has argued, contra Freud, that masochism and sadism are not “complementary” perversions, but rather constitute two different perversions with different aims, aesthetics, and ends. According to Deleuze, one characteristic that differentiates the masochistic scene from the sadistic scene is the fact that the masochist must seduce the sexual partner into meting out punishment, while in the sadistic scenario, the sadist is pursuing his own desire to inflict pain. While the film makes clear that Walter is following Erika’s directions, the actual scene in which the masochism is played out suggests that it is not masochism, but sadism, for it is Walter’s desire that has driven him to her in the middle of the night. Erika’s lack of affect also suggests that her desires are themselves “split,” as the imagined scene appears to produce no pleasure for her. In other words, the rape fantasy might be actually that – a fantasy. This time, when Erika says no, she might actually mean it.
Some of the formal characteristics of the film might also be considered feminist. These include the “open” ending of its narrative, the fact that Erika’s torso is never “fetishized” – framed in close-up – by the camera, the fact that much of the “work” of viewing the film consists of trying to read Huppert’s exquisite but always ambiguous face, and the film’s almost total withholding of characters’ nudity combined with its inclusion of graphic scenes from actual porn films. Most of Huppert’s acting occurs through her face, the film placing us in the position of the porn spectator who searches for visible evidence of female pleasure and the reassurance that men can provide such pleasure. The casting of Huppert also creates a feminist subtext, as she is considered one of France’s most intellectually gifted actresses. Appearing to wear almost no make-up other than lipstick, dressed often in somber clothes, her freckled complexion is lovely in a way that is not typical for an actress in her forties, as there is little attempt to turn her beauty into an eternally youthful femininity.
Other viewers, however, might see the film as misogynist. For the “cause” of Erika’s perversion seems at times to be her over-bearing pre-Oedipal mother, who wants to keep Erika with her at all costs and refuses to allow her to make the transition to an adult femininity. There is a disturbing failure to set Erika’s actions within a larger cultural and social framework, a lack of explanation for her mother’s controlling behavior, and the suggestion that she has “inherited” madness from her father. The viewer is required to fill in, for example, how the Oedipus complex also requires the mother to de-cathect from her child, and how abandoning a libidinal attachment is made more difficult by patriarchy’s placing of the responsibility for child-rearing on the mother. Walter’s boyishness also suggests that Erika can’t handle a “real” man. He himself has only recently acquired the traits of masculinity, and his “feminine” appeal to women suggest a certain harmlessness. In other words, it is possible to view Erika’s resistance to Oedipus as an instance of arrested development rather than an active attempt to thwart culturally stifling notions of femininity.
Still other viewers might leave both feminism and misogyny aside and argue that the film is simply Lacanian in its insistence on the impossibility of desire in general and female sexuality in particular. Erika wants something impossible; the film, in its insistence on that impossibility, is a radical attempt to rethink sexuality. It forces us to confront what Lacan calls the necessary failure of the sexual relation. The fact that this “failure” is enacted in and through the body of a woman leads us back to the question of whether Lacan is simply patriarchy’s messenger or one of its adherents.
Not being a native speaker of French, I sometimes find it difficult in particular to detect the tone of the film. A more nuanced reading would be possible, were I able to have a clearer sense of how the film attempts to position the spectator in relation to Erika, Walter, and Erika’s mother. It will be interesting to see if this film is ever shown in the United States, for, like another recent French film, Le Pornographe, it includes scenes so sexually graphic that they might require an “X” rating. At the very least, it will be released unrated. Its success at Cannes suggests something of its power to move an audience, but not all prize winners at Cannes find distribution in the U.S. We can only hope that Haneke’s film finds someone in the Anglophone world willing to take the risk of releasing this admittedly disturbing film.
Deleuze, Gilles. Masochism, An Interpretation of Coldness and Cruelty. New York: George Braziller, 1971.
Doane, Mary Ann, Patricia Mellencamp, and Linda Williams, editors. Re-Vision: Essays in Feminist Film Criticism. Frederick, MD: University Publications of America, 1984.
Freud, Sigmund. Sexuality and the Psychology of Love. Edited by Philip Rieff. New York: Collier, 1993.
Freud, Sigmund. Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality. Translated by James Strachey. New York: Basic Books, 2000.
Kaplan, E. Ann, editor. Feminism and Film. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
Lacan, Jacques. Feminine Sexuality: Jacques Lacan and the École Freudienne. Edited by Juliet Mitchell and Jacqueline Rose. Translated by Jacqueline Rose. London: Macmillan, 1982.
Metz, Christian. The Imaginary Signifier: Psychoanalysis and the Cinema. Translated by Celia Britton. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982.
Mulvey, Laura. Visual and Other Pleasures. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989.
Rodowick, David. The Difficulty of Difference: Psychoanalysis, Sexual Difference & Film Theory.New York: Routledge, 1991.
Studlar, Gaylyn. In the Realm of Pleasure: Von Sternberg, Dietrich, and the Masochistic Aesthetic. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992.
- At this late date in the history of psychoanalytic film theory, it is difficult to provide anything like a comprehensive bibliography of sources – particularly given that my analysis draws on what has become the “received wisdom” or “common sense” of film studies. In other words, debates about whether or not film studies has accurately represented the work of, say, Lacan, seem irrelevant to all but those scholars most steeped in Lacanian theory, as such objections are now beside the point. Rather than cite specific sources in my argument, I will provide a brief and admittedly idiosyncratic bibliography under “Works Cited.” [↩]