Porn Lit: Critical Approaches to Erotic Literature in Latin America and Spain

How do we approach a literary work that basks in an excess of erotic, even perverse, imagery? How do we think critically about bestiality, pedophilia, or chronicles of sexual escapades that, in a non‐academic setting, may be deemed gratuitous or obscene? What makes certain erotic texts literary? How do we tell the difference between a work that includes sex from one that may be analyzed as erotic (“sex text,” “porn lit,” or “porno‐erotic”)? In this course, we will inquire into these and similar questions in relation to contemporary (1980 to the present) Latin American and Spanish erotic narrative and film. Our course considers the ways in which eroticism and sexuality have been deployed in literature as a means of questioning social norms and challenging structures of power. We will attend to how authors, often from marginalized groups, have used the erotic in literature in order to destabilize systems of oppression (e.g., authoritarian rule, heteronormativity, patriarchy) and to disorder value systems and social hierarchies. Conversely, we will take seriously scholarly, juridical (obscenity laws), and public discourses that question the potential risks of hypersexualized literary representation and advocate for censorship of erotic materials.

Discussion of primary works will be informed by critical readings from philosophy, psychoanalysis, literary theory, and film studies. As the semester progresses, we will acquire a critical vocabulary (e.g., erotica, porn lit, taboo, abjection, fetish, sadism, dirty realism) for analyzing and discussing eroticism in literature and film.

CONTENT NOTE: This course will necessarily touch on sensitive, mature, and charged material, including scenes of sexual violence. You may find some readings and other content offensive or difficult.

Required Readings/Films (subject to change):
FILM: Albert Serra, Liberté (2019)
FILM: Ángel Manuel Soto, La granja (2015)
FILM: Lucrecia Martel, La niña santa (2004)
Fernanda Melchor, Temporada de huracanes (2017)
Mónica Ojeda, Nefando (2016)
Pedro Juan Gutierrez, Estoico y frugal (2019)
Gabriela Wiener, Sexografías (2008)
Horacio Castellanos Moya, Baile con serpientes (1996)
Mujeres de mucha monta(1992)
Almudena Grandes, Las edades de Lulú (1989)
Mempo Giardinelli, Luna caliente (1981)

Required Critical Readings (subject to change):
Sigmund Freud, “Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality” (1905)
Herbert Marcuse, Eros and Civilization (1955, selections)
Georges Bataille, Erotism: Death and Sensuality (1957, selections)
Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality (1976, selections)
Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection (1980, selections)
Leo Bersani, “Representation and its Discontents” (1981)
Audre Lorde, “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power,” Sister Outsider (1984)
Linda Williams, “Film Bodies: Gender, Genre, and Excess” (1991)
Judith Butler, Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex” (1993, selections)
bell hooks, “Eros, Eroticism, and the Pedagogical Process” (1994)
Josefina Ludmer, El cuerpo del delito (1999, selections)
José Quiroga, Tropics of Desire: Interventions from Queer Latino América (2000, selections)
Janine Rogers, “Sex and Text” (2003)
Nicholas Zurbrugg, “‘A century of hyper‐violence’ Paul Virilio: An interview” (2006)
Feona Attwood and Clarissa Smith, “Porn Studies: An Introduction” (2014)

Suggested Critical Readings:
Doris Sommer, “Love and Country in Latin América: An Allegorical Speculaon” (1990)
Ilan Stavans, “The Latin Phallus” (1995)
Vern L. Bullough, “Sex in History: A Redux” (1996)
Deborah Shaw, Erotic or political: Literary representations of Mexican Lesbians (1996)
Juan Carlos Ubilluz, Sacred Eroticism: Georges Bataille and Pierre Klossowski in the Latin American Erotic Novel (2006)
Various works by Zeb Tortorici

Suggested Primary Readings/Films:
Georges Bataille, Story of the Eye (1928)
Peter Weiss, Marat/Sade (1963)
Osvaldo Lamborghini, El fiord (1969)
Luis Buñuel, Belle de jour (1967)

Language of instruction: Spanish

Professor: Tamara Mitchell

Course Registration