Transgressive Women - ARTS5080

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2021 to 2022.


Films in certain genres, such as the Western, action film and martial arts film, are often gendered masculine, their powerful, active and typically violent male protagonists seen as representing masculinity. There is, however, also a long tradition of transgressive female protagonists in "male" genres, and this module investigates such characters. In addition to giving an overview of various types of transgressive female protagonists, the module explores in depth one or a few type(s) of transgressive female protagonist depending on the convenor's research interests. Case studies may include American action film, martial arts film, Blaxploitation/exploitation film, rape-revenge film, Western, crime film/television, film noir and horror in film and television. For example, in the action film the female protagonist’s display of power and strength may be seen as masculine, but she is often also portrayed with stereotypically feminine traits such as beauty and a sexy appearance. The female protagonist is thus often perceived as standing between the masculine and the feminine. Among the many questions triggered by transgressive female protagonists, this module might explore whether this character can and should be perceived as feminist or merely as exploitative, and how and why such protagonists may appeal to a female audience in particular.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 60
Private study hours: 240
Total study hours: 300

Method of assessment

Essay 1 (2500 words) (40%)
Essay 2 (3500 words) (60%)

Indicative reading

Dunn, Stephane. "Baad Bitches" and Sexy Supermamas: Black Power Action Films. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2008.
Henry, Claire. Revisionist Rape-Revenge: Redefining a Film Genre. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.
Inness, Sherrie A. Action Chicks: New Images of Tough Women in Popular Culture. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.
Read, Jacinda. The New Avengers: Feminism, Femininity, and the Rape-Revenge Cycle. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000.
Schubart, Rikke. Super Bitches and Action Babes. The Female Hero in Popular Cinema, 1970-2006. Jefferson: McFarland, 2007.
Tasker, Yvonne. Working Girls: Gender and Sexuality in Popular Cinema. New York: Routledge, 1998.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

8.1 describe the historical trajectory of one or several cycle(s) or genre(s) with a transgressive female protagonist and discuss its/their defining features critically
8.2 critically discuss the notions femininity and masculinity, as they relate to features such as power, action, agency, morality and/or violence
8.3 critically reflect on the appeal of transgressive female characters to a male and female audience
8.4 describe and comment upon the forefront of film studies, including the ability to extend their knowledge of this field through independent research.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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