Date of Completion


Thesis Type

College of Arts and Science Honors


Film and Television Studies

First Advisor

Hilary Neroni

Second Advisor

Todd McGowan


psychoanalysis, existentialism, film, Lacan, Lynch, Varda


This thesis investigates how several filmmakers have depicted the downfall of female protagonists whose existence poses a threat to what we consider feminine, proper, and moral. Through the lens of Julia Kristeva’s theory of the abject and psychoanalytic film theory, I discuss how certain cinematic approaches reflect the disruption of identity and/or the social order through their female character. Kristeva’s theory of the abject has previously been taken up by film scholars, notably Barbera Creed in her analysis of feminine monsters in horror. Situating abjection in tragedy emphasizes the ethical dimension of the abject, which I interpret through both Lacanian and existentialist thought. Some of the films I discuss include: Carl Theodor Dreyers La Passion de Jeanne D’Arc, Agnès Varda’s Sans Toit ni Loi and David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. I argue that the female protagonist’s perversion of patriarchal ideals and the moral law aligns her with the abject, not only as the mark of her exclusion, but as a means to freedom that eventually becomes the only possible end. I argue that the abject(ed) woman demands an experimental form because she disturbs visual, narrative and ideological framing. These arguments aim to reveal the possibility of abjection to be radical, calling into question the systems, values and ideals which lead women into such positions of exclusion in the first place.