This essay examines Jean Genet’s Les Bonnes (The Maids) from a fresh angle, applying recent feminist cultural studies criticism on the topic of murder (notably by lisa Downing) to Genet’s depiction of the figure of the murderess in this play. It identifies how certain clichés related to the figure in Western culture are potentially destabilized in Les Bonnes, and pinpoints the interrogation of the female killer as a stereotyped “masculine woman” in the original 1947 playtext of the play to argue that this sits in tension with the gender-conformist implications of its ending. From this discussion, which is fruitful for feminist inquiry, the essay continues to consider the ways in which selected mises en scène of Les Bonnes impugn a view of the murderess as an aberration of nature (as “monster” or “psycho”). This view requires deconstruction because it blocks insight into what female killers reveal about ideological scripts that seek to constrain women.


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pp. 227-240
Launched on MUSE
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