Teaching U.S. and Transnational Feminisms with “Thelma and Louise” (1991) and “Chaos” (2001)

By Mara Holt.

Published by The Arts Collection

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

My paper analyzes two films as a platform from which to teach the move from the national to the transnational in feminist studies. U.S. students face challenges in moving from feminist artistic expressions they feel they can “relate to” toward feminist aesthetics that ask them to confront what’s beyond the borders.

I teach the two films in conjunction with Sara Ahmed’s “This Other and Other Others” (Economy and Society 31.4)and Francoise Lionnet’s “Afterward: Francophonie, Postcolonial Studies, and Transnational Feminisms” (U Florida P, 2005).

I have found that teaching the films “Thelma” and “Louise” and “Chaos” helps students bridge the gap from U.S. based feminism to the transnational. What the films do similarly is demonstrate women’s rage against men—women not as victims of men, but rather as “fighting back” (Halberstam). But while Thelma and Louise points to feminist principles of the U.S. 1980s, Chaos represents the influence of transnational feminism, providing an implicit critique of earlier U.S. feminism. Both films demonstrate social injustice and point to a future that cannot be grasped, that can be imagined from various perspectives. Teaching both gives women students an opportunity to relate to a feminist portrayal of women, and then to move beyond a notion of women’s relationships as based on “identification with” to a notion of women’s relationships as based on “unlikely affiliations” created out of a series of encounters in which “differences are not blurred,” according to Francoisse Lionnet, “but become the ground upon which solidarity can begin to be conceived” (263).

Keywords: Feminist Studies, Feminist Theory, U.S. Cinema, French Cinema, Pedagogy, Teaching, Modes of encounter, Solidarity

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 4, Issue 6, pp.41-52. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.194MB).

Mara Holt

Associate Professor, English, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio, USA

Mara Holt teaches rhetoric, literature, and pedagogy at Ohio University, Athens, Ohio, U.S.A. Her professional interests include collaborative pedagogy, race studies, feminist studies and academic labor. She is working on a book called Collaborative Learning as Democratic Practice.


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