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Photo of Professor Fiona Handyside

Professor Fiona Handyside

Associate Professor in Film Studies


01392 724208

I grew up in Paignton, Devon, and was educated at the Universities of Southampton, Nottingham, Strasbourg and London. I also worked for a year as a Lectrice at Universite Michel de Montaigne in Bordeaux. I was appointed as a Lecturer in Film Studies at Queen's University Belfast in 2002, and returned to my home roots to work as a Lecturer in  Film Studies at Exeter in 2007. I was promoted to Associate Professor in January 2019.

My recent  book publications are:


My office is 110 Queens.

Please email me for an appointment. 


Research interests

Girls and Girlhood in Contemporary Cinema

While I have always been interested in questions of gender and representation in film since my PhD on female American stars in 1950s French cultural discourses, my research has recently taken a new direction into analysing representations of girls and girlhood from a range of different national cinemas. My interest in this is three-fold. First, I am fascinated by the way the figure of the girl has been taken up as an accessible way to debate the legacies of feminism and the question of opportunities and threats for women in contemporary Western cultures. Second, work on contemporary film and television cultures' representations of girls has tended to be dominated by Anglophone, particularly Hollywood Conglomerate, production, leading to an 'echo-chamber' effect where film is critiqued for its narrow range of representation. Through turning to other types and locations of production (from Indiewood, to Europe, to Asia) we can challenge this narrative and look for possibilities of a more diverse and diffuse experience of girlhood. This enables us to do all sorts of exciting things, such as examine how such globalising narratives as neo-liberalism and post-feminism might nevertheless be inflected by local differences; to explain why specific local conditions, such as institutional support, might enable young women to make film, as in France; to explore female directors' investments in, aesthetics of, and affective responses to, contemporary girl culture. Third, understanding some film as a privileged site to tarry with the complex and ambivalent emotions of girlhood enables us to ask questions about how girl audiences themselves might respond to this viewing, how this might shape their media consumption and production, and whether this might enable a productive dialogue about the experiences of being a girl in twenty-first century Europe.

I work on a range of directors from these perspectives, such as Celine Sciamma, Mia Hansen-Love, Delphine and Muriel Coulin, and especially Sofia Coppola.

Place and Space in Cinema

I understand cinema as fundamentally a spatial art: film both mechanically records and artistically interprets place. I trace the dynamic relation between film and place, in a range of studies, and in particular I have written on the liminal, wet-dry, nature-culture, beachscape and its central importance to French cinema, looking at its use in films by Rohmer, Ozon, Varda, Leconte, Blier, Breillat, Kurys, Lopes-Curval, Demy, Truffaut and Tati, and its industrial significance for the Cannes film festival.

Eric Rohmer

Having produced an edited book of interviews from across Rohmer's career in 2013, I retain my unconditional love and passion for this most brilliant of filmmakers. My most recent project on Rohmer brought together my interest in female filmmaking and his films, as I discussed his 1980s work with female cinematographer Sophie Maintigneux.





Research supervision

I am always happy to hear from prospective doctoral students with proposals linked to my areas of research. I am especially interested in working with candidates on the following areas

  • Contemporary French cinema
  • Spatiality in cinema
  • Postfeminism and cinema
  • The films of Eric Rohmer
  • The films of Sofia Coppola

Research students

I am currently working with the following students:


Gemma Edney: Sounding the Silence: Voicing Girlhood in Contemporary French Film, 2014-2017

Katie Newstead, AHRC funded: Ageing Femininity and the Cinematic Fairy-tale, 2013-2016

Daniel Passes, London Film School joint supervision, PhD by Practice: Reimag(in)ing the Rural, 2014-2017

Rebecca Marshall, London Film School joint supervision, PhD by Practice: Filming and/on the Self, 2013-2016


Former students:

Giulia Baso, AHRC funded, co-supervised with Prof Danielle Hipkins: Contamination and Mediation in the Films of Antonioni and Egoyan, completed January 2015, passed with minor corrections (examiners: Prof Emma Wilson and Prof Will Higbee).

Clara Bradbury-Rance, AHRC funded, MRes 2010-2011. Queer Postfeminism and the films of Lisa Cholodenko, passed with distinction. Clara is now completing a PhD in Manchester with AHRC funding, under the supervision of Prof Jackie Stacey.

Other information

Conference Papers Given (since 2001)

  • ‘Catherine Deneuve: the star as fashion icon'
    July 2003, University of Stockholm, Sweden, Popular European Cinema 4: Stars and Methods
  • ‘"The Great American Tourist": The Tourist Gaze in Hollywood Musicals'
    September 2003, NUI: Cork, Ireland, Musicals: An International Conference
  • ‘Girls on Film: Mothers, Daughters and Sisters in Contemporary French Film'
    March 2004, University of Durham, Affaires de famille: Family in French Culture and Thought
  • ‘Flow, not form: Melodrama in François Ozon's Gouttes d'eau sur pierres brûlantes (2000)'
    March 2005, Institut Français, London, Studies in French Cinema Annual Conference
  • ‘Sex and setting: The Beach in Catherine Breillat's A ma soeur' [part of panel on Sex and Setting]
    June 2005, Queen Mary, University of London, Space and Place: Design and Setting in the Cinema International Conference
  • ‘Water Drops Far From Heaven: The Contemporary Melodrama in America and in France'
    July 2005, University of Leeds, European Cinema Research Forum Annual Conference
  • ‘Adaptation in the films of François Ozon' [part of panel on adaptation]
    July 2006, University of Wales, Swansea, European Cinema Research Forum Annual Conference
  • ‘The Beach in Female Authored Films'
    October 2006, Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies, University of London, Space, Place and Landscape: Women and Environments in Contemporary French Culture
  • ‘Melodrama for the New Generation: The Role of Melodrama in Contemporary French Cinema'
    July 2007, University of Glasgow, Screen Annual Conference
  • ‘The Margins don't have to be Marginal: Re-thinking Alterity in the Films of Eric Rohmer'
    September 2007, University of Exeter,  Alienation and Alterity: Otherness in Modern and Contemporary Francophone Contexts 


I teach film modules across the departments of Modern Languages and English, working with a wide range of students from various backgrounds - some of whom have been studying films for several years, and others who are new to the idea of film as an academic subject. I'm committed to communicating to students the importance of cinema as the most powerful art form of the twentieth century, and its lasting impact on all arts, as it continues to shape the structures of contemporary culture. As it is popular in its appeal, and radical in its practices, studying cinema opens up important questions about how we communicate knowledge, belief and meaning, and the role of technology in the forming of culture. From the first seminar of a first year introductory course where we explain what is meant by mise-en-scene to a final year tutorial's complex discussion about how the 'echo chamber' of idealised girlhood might be prised open via film, I am determined that students should be excited by and informed about the role of cinema in our world. I was shortlisted for Best Supervisor in the 2015 Student Guild Teaching Awards.

Modules taught

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