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Abstract

This article focuses on Peter Mullan’s The Magdalene Sisters which explores the scope and complex nature of the punishment experienced by the women incarcerated in the Magdalene Asylum near Dublin. The analysis reflects my long-standing interest in religion, film and feminist values as well as my revulsion at the sexual abuse and predatory practices of countless Catholic priests and nuns. It is the same revulsion that drove Mullan to bring the horrors of the Magdalene Asylums out from beneath the culturally sanctioned shadows into plain sight. My analysis focuses not only on women as victims of abuse, but also on women, and in this case religious women, as victimizers—as the monstrous-feminine. Erving Goffman’s Asylums: Essays on the Social Situations of Mental Patients and Other Inmates provides the initial framework for my analysis. I also consider Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison to further illuminate the relationship between sin/crime and punishment, and Barbara Creed’s The Monstrous-Feminine: Film, Feminism, and Psychoanalysis to deepen my understanding of wicked women. Each of these scholars offers valuable insights into human behaviors and their consequences.