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Top 10 Utterly Ridiculous Gender Studies Courses

Posted on August 12 2010 8:00 am
Jenn escaped blue state academia for redder pastures in the South. Follow her on Twitter and read more of her work at

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9. Berkeley – Pornographies On/Scene

Linda Williams, author of Porn Studies, offers this course through the Rhetoric Department at Berkeley. She cautions prospective students, “Please realize that curiosity about this course does not mean that you are actually prepared to look closely at a wide variety of explicit sexual representations for an entire semester.” Watching porn with your teacher? Ick. (Or bow chicka wow wow, if you prefer.)

This seminar will bring together debates about the nature of pornography with debates about the nature of the visual. Both will be considered in relation to the (mostly unwritten) history of American visual pornographies and with an eye towards imagining, and even contributing to this history. What, for example, is the canon of hard core pornography? We will concentrate on two moments in the history of moving image pornography: an earlier era of “obscenity,” in which explicit sexual images were kept off-scene for the consumption of private elites in the era of the stag film, and a more contemporary, and increasingly electronic era of “on/scenity” in which pornographies of all sorts become available to wide varieties of consumers, including those to whom it was once forbidden. Although moving-image pornographies will be our primary objects of study, this seminar will also consider the different rhetorics of still and image moving images which aim to arouse, techniques of arousal, and related popular images which also aim to “move” the bodies of spectator/users. Approximately one third of the class will be devoted to general readings in the growing “field” of pornography studies, another third to the question of what constitutes the canon of the stag era (here I will invite those interested to imagine a two disk DVD with notes arguing for what constitutes this canon) and another third to the burning question of electronic, interactive pornographies on small screens.

From the department of You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: the course requires active participation and an oral presentation.

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