Somewhere between the private and the public, the personal and the relational, the imagined and the real, sexuality emerges on the scene. In film, a scene suggests the action that takes place in a single location and a continuous time. In effect, a scene gives coherence to that action. Sexuality is a powerfully disruptive force that challenges continuous, linear time by drawing past, present, and future into unexpected relations. The scene provides the conditions for sexuality to emerge at the same time as it is transformed by sexuality. What is the function of the “scene” in film, literature, and fantasy, and how does it structure sexuality? How does the scene make some expressions of sexuality possible and others impossible? How does sexuality challenge conventional relations of space and time?
Film and literature afford us a view of the desires and fantasies that typically take place “behind the scenes” of sexuality. They also allow us to consider how the often traumatic event of sexuality is constituted as a “crime scene” or the “original scene” that will continue to inform later representations of sexuality. Furthermore, film and literature allow us to analyze the interactions between the psychic and the social—the scenes where desire and fantasy interact with social dynamics of power and history. To this end, we will discuss how gender, race, class, and (dis)ability inform scenes of sexuality. And we will consider, among other things, subcultural scenes of sexuality, feminist perspectives on the “sex scene,” and queer theoretical readings of the “scene.”
This course will emphasize the skills of film and literary analysis, paying particular attention to film style, narrative and visual form, and rhetorical and argumentative techniques. This is a writing-intensive R1B course with a research component. A substantial amount of time will be devoted to writing workshops and instruction. Students will be required to write papers with revisions.
Tentative bibliography and filmography:
Pedro Almodóvar, Todo sobre mi madre (All About My Mother; 1999)
Sigmund Freud, (selections) The Interpretation of Dreams; Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality; Totem and Taboo; Rat Man
Jennie Livingston, Paris is Burning
David Lynch, Mullholand Drive
Christopher Marlowe, “Hero and Leander”
Ovid, Metamorphoses (selections)
Plato, Symposium (selections)
Sappho, If Not, Winter (trans. Anne Carson)
Sophocles, Oedipus Rex (trans. Robert Fagles)
Essays by Leo Bersani, Tim Dean, Laura Mulvey, José Esteban Muñoz, and others.