Publication Date



Open access

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Communication Studies (Communication)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

William Rothman

Second Committee Member

Anthony Allegro

Third Committee Member

Christina Lane

Fourth Committee Member

Ralph Heyndels


This dissertation is an authorship study of the controversial contemporary French film director Catherine Breillat. Using screen captures to provide visual evidence for the philosophical and theoretical perspectives staked out by Breillat, I perform close analysis of the following six films: Une Vrai Jeune Fille (1976), 36 Fillette (1988), Romance (1999), À Ma Soeur (2001), Brève Traverseé (2001), and Anatomie de L'enfer (2004). Using theory only to supplement interpretations, I draw on the work of George Bataille, Stanley Cavell, and Slavoj Zizek. Breillat's films work through a series of important philosophical ideas integral to an account of eroticism: the paradox of speaking about silence; achieving purity through an encounter with disgust; the singularity of individual desire; the split in identity between the mind and the body; the relationship between sex and death; the relationship between the taboo and transgression; and the violence of female desire. Breillat's films encourage viewers to alter their thinking about sexuality and liberate themselves to lead a more fully erotic life. The capacity of Breillat's films to free eroticism is their most important contribution not only to film history, but also to the totality of human experience.


Cinema; Feminism; Polysexuality; Adolescence; Sadomasochism