Saturday, October 3, 2009

CSSC Working Group: Violence, Pleasure, and Writing

Transgressing and Policing: the Laws and Limits of Desire

Discussion Group
Monday, September 21, 2009 to Monday, May 10, 2010
bi-weekly: 6:30 PM to 9:00 PM
190 Barrows Hall

Does desire by definition break its own laws? Is the policing of its limits itself an erotic act? How do these varied forms of violence and pleasure work together to (re)define social spaces, community bonds, and bodies, as
both the subjects of enjoyment and those subjected to the limits of enjoyment?

We will investigate the combined themes of transgression and policing as they play out in a multiplicity of forms, rhetorics, and media. Topics to consider include, but are certainly not limited to:

• the historical phenomena of libertinage and decadence
• the game that cops and robbers play with the spectator's identification, in various genres such as detective stories, film serials, and noirs
• transgressions of the boundaries between the human and the mechanical, the human and the animal
• arguments over the contested criminality of pornography as they have played out in various theoretical contexts, from existentialism to feminism
• feminist utopias and anti-utopias
• the relationship between law and punishment as experienced both by the torturer and by the subject of torture
• the "law of genre" and the force it brings to bear upon the (gendered?) pleasures of the text
• the biopolitics of the criminal and the genius detective from fin-du-siècle criminology and degeneration theory to CSI.

Readings may draw from authors as diverse as Diderot, Villiers de L'Isle-Adam, Queneau, Conan Doyle, Poe, Ballard, Wittig, Millett, Kracauer, Lacan, Borges, Ginzburg, Lombroso, Asad, and Ferguson. We will also continue to investigate a variety of other sources, such as films including Feuillade's "Fantômas" or "Les Vampires," as well as TV shows, comic books, and opera.

For a list of scheduled meetings and topics, go to

For more information, please contact Simon Porzak,, 510-643-3040;

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