Skip to main content

Study information

Beyond Sex and the City: Becoming a Woman in Western Cinema

Module titleBeyond Sex and the City: Becoming a Woman in Western Cinema
Module codeEAF3508
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Fiona Handyside (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

What does it mean to be a girl in contemporary Western culture? How does cinema represent the process of becoming a woman? On this module we will study how both arthouse and popular films from America and Europe narrate young women's lives in contemporary society that both celebrates and denigrates girls and their achievements. In particular we will draw upon the theories of postfeminism and place these into an unusual comparative context, exploring the simultaneous local and global articulation of contemporary girlhood and its pleasures and pains.

Module aims - intentions of the module

  • To interrogate contemporary films from American and European cinema that map out the fraught process of attaining adult femininity. You will examine how a range of cinematic cultures, in both art house and popular modes, represent and refract the status of young women in contemporary society against a backdrop of anxiety concerning the sexualisation of young women and the status of feminism. In order to do so, you will draw upon the theories of postfeminism and place these into a comparative context.
  • To enable you to debate and critique representations of femininity within a range of cinematic cultures; to be able to discuss and articulate a range of feminist and postfeminist positions and ideas; to appreciate and understand a wide range of films, drawn from both ‘popular’ and ‘art-house’ traditions; to understand the narrative and formal devices films use to articulate female life stages, and the political and aesthetic consequences of this; to be able to apply a range of theoretical concerns to films and television programmes with which you may be familiar.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate an informed understanding and detailed knowledge of the works studied on the module
  • 2. Demonstrate an understanding of their significance in the broader cultural context in which they were produced
  • 3. Demonstrate an informed understanding of a number of key debates in feminist and postfeminist theory and an ability to apply these to film

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. After initial input from the course tutor(s), apply and evaluate critical approaches to the material under analysis independently
  • 5. Argue at length and in detail about an aspect of the topic, supporting the argument with evidence from the text and with opinions from secondary literature
  • 6. Analyse films in a variety of genres and styles, showing awareness of their relation to the social, historical and generic context in which they were written, and present the results orally and in writing

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Through essay-writing, demonstrate appropriate research and bibliographic skills, a capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument and a capacity to write clear and correct prose;
  • 8. Through research for either face to face or online discussion and essays, demonstrate proficiency in independent information retrieval and analysis.
  • 9. Through research, forum and/or seminar discussion, and essay writing demonstrate a capacity to question assumptions, to distinguish between fact and opinion, and to critically reflect on their own learning process.
  • 10. Demonstrate ability to combine a variety of IT skills in researching and reporting on a topic

Syllabus plan

The syllabus will be organised into topics that cover the following main themes:

  • Emotions and Girlhood
  • Generations and Voice
  • Performance
  • Religion and the (Post)secular
  • Biology and Time

An indicative viewing list is as follows:

  • Fish Tank (Arnold, 2009)
  • Mustang (Erguven, 2015)
  • Bend it Like Beckham (Chadha, 2002)
  • Bande de filles (Sciamma, 2014)
  • Lady Bird (Gerwig, 2017)
  • Mean Girls (Waters, 2004)
  • Juno (Reitman, 2007)

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching11Lecture (in 3 sections)
Scheduled Learning and Teaching11Seminar held via Teams or face-to-face as appropriate
Scheduled Learning and Teaching22Forum participation
Guided Independent Study22Film viewing
Guided Independent Study190Reading, research and essay preparation and writing
Guided Independent Study44Forum and seminar preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Forum participation and set activities such as finding new examples of material and discussing imagesResponding to questions, posting required 1x week at least1-3, 6, 8-10Peer and tutor feedback in forum

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Sequence analysis352000 words1-3, 6Written
Essay OR video essay654000 words OR 1,500 words and video essay of 5-10 minutes1-5, 7, 9-10Written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Sequence analysisSequence analysis1-3, 6Referral/deferral period
Essay OR video essayEssay OR video essay1-5, 7, 9-10Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Sarah Banet-Weiser, Empowered: Popular Feminism and Popular Misogyny (Duke University Press, 2019)
  • Cinema Journal , 44: 2, Winter, 2005 – Special edition on postfeminism
  • Catherine Driscoll, ‘Girls Today - Girls, Girl Culture and Girl Studies’, Girlhood Studies 1:1 (Summer 2008)
  • Rosalind Gill, ‘Postfeminist Media Culture: Elements of a sensibility’ in European Journal of Cultural Studies , Vol. 10 (2), 147-166
  • Fiona Handyside and Kate Taylor-Jones, eds International Cinema and the Girl: Local Issues, Transnational Contexts (Palgrave, 2016)
  • Angela McRobbie: The Aftermath of Feminism: Gender, Culture and Social Change  (London: Sage, 2009)
  • Rebecca Munford and Melanie Waters, Investigating the Postfeminist Mystique  (I B Tauris, 2013)
  • Diane Negra and Yvonne Tasker (eds.),  Interrogating Postfeminism: Gender and the Politics of Popular Culture (Duke University Press, 2007)
  • Diane Negra, ‘
  • ---. What A Girl Wants?: Fantasizing the Reclamation of Self in Postfeminism  (London: Routledge, 2009)
  • Sarah Projansky, Spectacular Girls: Media Fascination and Celebrity Culture (New York U Press, 2014)
  • Hilary Radner, Neo-Feminist Cinema, Girly Films, Chick Flicks and Consumer Culture  (New York: Routledge, 2011)
  • Kathleen Rowe Karlyn, Unruly Girls, Unrepentant Mothers: Redefining Feminism on Screen (U of Texas Press, 2011)

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Post-feminism, women, cinema

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites



Module co-requisites



NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date