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Clara Bradbury-Rance is a film scholar, critic and teacher based in London. She works primarily on contemporary lesbian, queer and trans cinema and screen cultures. Clara's first book, Lesbian Cinema after Queer Theory, was published by Edinburgh University Press in 2019. She is a Senior Lecturer in Gender and Sexuality Studies at King's College London and has a PhD in Screen Studies from the University of Manchester. She is currently working on two new book projects: a personal account of ambivalent masculinities and queer and trans representability and a BFI Classic on Portrait of a Lady on Fire.

recent publications

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monograph:
lesbian cinema after queer theory
The unprecedented increase in lesbian representation over the past two decades has, paradoxically, coincided with queer theory’s radical transformation of the study of sexuality. In Lesbian Cinema after Queer Theory, Clara Bradbury-Rance argues that this contradictory context has yielded new kinds of cinematic language through which to give desire visual form. By offering close readings of key contemporary films such as Blue Is the Warmest Colour, Water Lilies and Carol alongside a broader filmography encompassing over 300 other films released between 1927 and 2018, the book provokes new ways of understanding a changing field of representation. Bradbury-Rance resists charting a narrative of representational progress or shoring up the lesbian’s categorisation in the newly available terms of the visible. Instead, she argues for a feminist framework that can understand lesbianism’s queerness. Drawing on a provocative theoretical and visual corpus, Lesbian Cinema after Queer Theory reveals the conditions of lesbian legibility in the twenty-first century.
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recent article:
ambivalent masculinities in contemporary film and tv: on lesbian and trans representability
In 1999, Jamie Babbit’s lesbian cult classic But I’m a Cheerleader parodied the absurd correlations between cisgender roles, styles, and heteronorms. In doing so, it gave audiences the opportunity to laugh at the assumptions of “gaydar”: the notion that you can make a connection between gender nonconformity and sexuality. This article explores how the landscape of queer and trans representation in film and TV has shifted in the intervening decades, arguing that the reading and misreading of gendered codes remains a structuring condition of the queer comedy. If mainstream media of the past decade have strategically pursued femininity as the visible symbol of lesbian progress, other media have instead ambivalently negotiated a double bind: a resistance to accepting masculinity as the straightforward condition of lesbian legibility and a simultaneous anxiety over the precarity of lesbianism itself.
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recent film review:
bottoms
In the time-honoured tradition of the teen sex romp, PJ (Rachel Sennott) and Josie (Ayo Edebiri) are willing to do anything to lose their respective virginities before they leave high school. But there’s a problem: they’re neither cool nor male enough to date the popular girls they have harboured crushes on for years. Then, after a rumour about their “summer in juvie” gives them a sudden, unwitting reputation as badasses, they set up a “fight club” in the name of female solidarity and self-defence but really for the sake of attracting cheerleaders.
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recent article:
on teaching diversity & inclusion
In 2020, I was asked to design a module called “Diversity and Inclusion in Practice” for a new online MA. To design a module around this theme was to reckon with a paradox. Scholars such as Sara Ahmed, working across feminist, queer, and critical race studies, have given us theoretical and methodological frameworks not simply for celebrating “diversity” but for exploring this term itself as a function of power. While the use of terms such as diversity and inclusion may be a strategic necessity for social justice work around higher education’s current agenda, this “language of diversity” (Ahmed 2012: 51) is also part of an ambivalent institutional performance. In this essay, I chart my thought process in determining how to put ambivalence “in[to] practice” in my design and delivery of a module about D&I itself. I question how to avoid simply replicating models of D&I training like unconscious bias, mobilising instead the relationship between the theory of D&I and the practice of it. And I explore how the professional and personal experiences and contributions of students on this part-time, online MA shape the role of the classroom at the intersection of pedagogy and politics.
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recent article:
netflix, pleasure & the shaping of queer taste
This article discusses the ‘Netflix imaginary’ and how it shapes our understanding of queer taste and legibility in contemporary visual culture. While Netflix has promoted itself as a bastion of LGBTQ inclusivity and other forms of ‘diversity’, this article considers the platform not on the basis of celebrated LGBTQ ‘Netflix Originals’ such as Sex Education or Queer Eye but rather on how our navigations of the platform’s content throw our queer attachments and recommendations into pleasurable chaos. If the ‘Netflix imaginary’ is built around personalisation – that is, the promise of knowledge and insight – it more often generates bewilderment and surprise. But the article argues that this uncanny algorithmic meddling also has the potential to generate its own source of fun, entertainment and queer pleasure. By analysing what consumers are led to understand of the site’s dependence on and commitment to collaborative filtering, algorithmic signposting and customer agency and choice, I consider how we might employ a queer method for engaging subversively with Netflix’s representational inconsistencies and inadequacies – how we might see Netflix itself as a queer method for reconfiguring queer taste.
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recent article:
ambivalence & citational practice in appropriate behavior
Across her body of work in film, television, and digital media, Desiree Akhavan has captured the awkward politics of cultural production for female filmmakers and media-makers. Yet she has also refused to straightforwardly align her work with feminist critiques of dominant cultural production practices, however much she is interpellated by them. Akhavan, a queer woman of color in a racist, sexist, and homophobic industry, negotiates both contemporary feminism's potentials for solidarity and its intersectional shortcomings. Akhavan's autobiographical characters wrestle with the need for social justice while questioning the “appropriate behaviors” demanded by serious commitments to the cause. Her work reveals the ambivalence of feminist attachments. This article reads the queer feminist politics of Akhavan's work, with a particular focus on her debut feature Appropriate Behavior (UK/US, 2014), through the lens of citational practice. The author argues that Akhavan employs citational codes that function in Clare Hemmings's words as a “storytelling tactic,” sustaining normative narratives about feminism's recent past. By employing an ambivalent trope that the author calls citation→disavowal, Akhavan troubles both the dominant cultures she is excluded from and the viability and legibility of her place within the movements that resist them.
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recent article:
lesbian legibility & queer legacy in portrait of a lady on fire
As a story of painting – an artist falling in love with the subject of her portrait – Portrait de la jeune fille en feu/Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a film about representation itself, about the intensified spectatorship that comes with a sustained diegetic attention to the gaze. This article argues that rather than fulfilling the mainstream demands of the period romance to reveal lost histories of lesbianism, Sciamma’s film draws on her radical visual vocabulary to capture desire’s precariousness. This is the site of Portrait de la jeune fille en feu’s queerness: not (just) the explicit representation of a lesbian love story but rather a reckoning with cinema’s own role in making prohibited desires legible on-screen. Just as Gayatri Gopinath locates ‘queerness’ in ‘a specific spectatorial dynamic between the artist and the historical archive’, we can find queerness in Sciamma’s relationship to the visual archive of lesbian film history. This article argues that by reminding us of desire’s precariousness, Sciamma’s film demonstrates its own negotiations with ‘lesbian’ cinema whilst opening up ways to read a visual map of queer possibility.
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special issue:
feminist pedagogies
With this issue of MAI, which centres on feminist pedagogies, we hope you will find much to lighten your spirits and inspire, as we enter into this new decade. Now, perhaps more so than ever, we need to view the classroom as a space for contestation, for challenge, and for activism against both pernicious political systems of thought and the increasingly egregious neoliberalisation of higher education. Feminism as a form of ethics that demands we engage beyond hermetic boundaries of self and open ourselves up to community is a tool that we dismiss at our peril in this parlous political environment. The future is not determined: it is ours to grasp and to make. And not merely for ourselves, but for generations to come. This rallying collection of essays, toolkits, manifestos and creative work begs each and every one of us to take up the mantle and commit actively to changing the dire situation in which we find ourselves currently.
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