Femmes Fatales in Literature and Film - CPLT3290

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2022 to 2023
Autumn Term 4 15 (7.5) checkmark-circle


This module introduces students to a selection of famous femmes fatales in literary works from biblical times to the present day, as well as in film noir. We will closely analyse representations of women who bring about the downfall of men, with a particular emphasis on the gender-political and wider ideological implications of specific representational choices. Students will critically analyse the functions and features of specific fatal female figures by looking closely at the socio-cultural backgrounds from which these representations emerge.

The module commences with an introduction to some archetypal fatal women in the Bible (including Eve, Judith and Delilah) and in classical Greek mythology (including Helen, Circe and the Sirens). We then proceed to study representations of femmes fatales in various historical periods and movements, including the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, Romanticism, Decadence and the twentieth century. By drawing on relevant concepts from feminist and queer theory, as well as historical and psychoanalytical approaches, the module aims to foster an awareness of the ideological and psychological issues that are at stake in all representations of gendered conflicts.


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 20
Total Private Study Hours: 130
Total Study Hours: 150

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods
• Essay 1 (1,500 words) (40%)
• Essay 2 (1,500 words) (40%)
• Presentation (20%)

Reassessment methods
• 100% Coursework (3,000 words)

Indicative reading

Any edition of the following:

The Bible [extracts]
Ovid, Metamorphoses [extracts]
Homer, The Iliad and The Odyssey [extracts]
William Shakespeare, Macbeth (1606)
Baudelaire, Flowers of Evil (1857)
Oscar Wilde, Salomé (1891)
Rómulo Gallegos, Doña Bárbara (1929)
Dashiel Hammett, The Maltese Falcon (1930)
Agatha Christie, Crooked House (1949)

Viewing List:
Vertigo [Online, DVD] (1958), Dir. Alfred Hitchcock

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Demonstrate a critical overview and understanding of representations of women who bring about the downfall of men in literature and film within their respective cultural-historical contexts;
2 Engage thematically and comparatively with a range of literary and theoretical texts from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds;
3 Demonstrate an understanding of key literary concepts through analysis of the role of key motifs in the texts;
4 Demonstrate an understanding of classic and recent criticism relating to texts and contexts relevant to the figure of the femme fatale.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Demonstrate an ability to undertake analysis of texts and contexts;
2 Demonstrate an ability to read closely, and to apply a limited range of critical terms and methodologies;
3 Demonstrate written communication skills, including the emerging skill of original argument;
4 Present ideas and arguments in a clear and structured way both in class and in writing;
5 Demonstrate critical awareness about cultural and historical differences.


  1. Credit level 4. Certificate level module usually taken in the first stage of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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