Pornography: Aesthetics, Politics, and Pleasure
Pornography is one of humanity’s oldest, and most enduring artifacts. Variously celebrated and demonized, it has decorated sumptuous palaces and been furtively sold under pain of arrest. In the modern United States, it is kept studiously out of sight, and yet is simultaneously omnipresent and accessible in its most explicit forms with a simple click of the mouse. What is pornography? What does it do? Why do we treat it so inconsistently? Why is pornography legal in some countries and censored in others? What are the aesthetics of pornography? What are its narrative structures? How do we experience and represent sexual pleasure?
In this course, we will examine the history of pornography and how pornography as an expression of eroticism has developed over time. Reading texts from Andrea Dworkin, Catharine MacKinnon, Drucilla Cornell, Carol Queen, George Bataille, Michel Foucault, Laura Kipnis, Jennifer Nash among others, we will explore pornography as a medium and genre from early print pornography to amateur and internet porn in order to better understand how pornography relates to desire, gender equality, race and class relations, freedom of speech, and sexual liberty. Does pornography objectify bodies and creates false images of sexual performance? Or, does it create pleasure and offer a medium to re-signify sexual relations by expanding the erotic imagination? In addition to theoretical and philosophical texts, we will read some pornographic stories and watch scenes from films which contain explicit material like In The Realm of the Senses and Nymphomaniac.
Course ScheduleThursday, 6:30-9:30pm ET
April 13 — May 04, 2023