Professor Lee Quinby – Macaulay Honors College – Spring 2010

Sexuality and American Culture – Spring 2010


Spring Fever PANIC! and Sexuality as Living Literature

Spring Fever PANIC! Reading: Sexuality and Resistance as Living Literature

            Our philosophical and historical discussion of sexuality in American culture has been informed by renowned and canonized fiction, as well as scientific contexts and personal documents.  This PANIC! reading project is a blend of theories, realities, fictions, and confessions in a theatrical, real-time, literary and community context.  Read the rest of this entry »

Final Project: Photo Portraits

The purpose of this portrait series was to investigate the way power relations fluctuate when assuming roles—the Photographer, the Subject, the Viewer—that are defined and attached to the medium of photography and how that affects the results.  I’ve chosen two poses: in the first the Subject looks at the camera and, indirectly, at the Viewer; in the second, the Subject is turned away in another direction. Though the American flag can be a loaded symbol of power, for my purposes, I chose to view it as a backdrop.   However, despite wanting to remain focused on the Subject, I realize the background is heavy and looms over him or her, reminding me of the power relations that exist in everything and everywhere.

I think French filmmaker Robert Bresson had the right idea when he said that the model is ”what you make known of yourself by coincidence with him.”  The Viewer is reliant on the Subject and therefore the Photographer in order to access the medium.  Though the relations between Photographer, Subject and Viewer are essentially those of scientia sexualis, where each person assumes a role, the product of this triangular relationship conforms to its medium—in this case, photography—and therefore the ambiguity of the ars erotica, art for arts sake.

*photos to be posted shortly

Sexy Movies Since 1934

Sexy Movies Since 1934

When considering Foucault in relation to this project, I thought about the deployment of sexuality and its relationship to movies, more specifically how depictions of sex in movies relate to actual sex and pleasure.  The MPAA’s regulations were intended to prevent the general public from being titillated by things that society viewed as wrong, perverse or indecent.  Instead of regulating what people actually did, the MPAA regulated what they could be aroused by, by only allowing the depiction of sexual acts that were deemed proper and acceptable.  If unacceptable sex acts such as rape, pedophilia, adultery or miscegenation were not depicted in movies, people watching movies could only be titillated by consensual, adult, non-illicit, intra-racial sex, which was viewed as acceptable.  Because the MPAA was unable to regulate people’s actual lives, they regulated what sort of sexual arousal or pleasure people could experience from watching movies.

Clips

Slideshow

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Can You Tell Me How to Get, How to Get to Sexame Street: Final Project

Can You Tell Me How to Get, How to Get to Sexame Street: Final Project

What’s love got to do with it?

That was the question posed on the syllabus of our class. I explore what love has to do with it all in my play, “Sexame Street.” “Sexame Street” looks at how love is often presented – sanitized, middle-class, narrow in its acceptance –and how love (even revolutionary love) can break or make a stereotype.

I look at stereotypes based on gender, especially the stereotypical Barbie-like female: Pink-loving, frighteningly thin, and somewhat narrow-minded in her liberality. I base the narrow liberalness of Barbie women off a 2008 article I read, in which Tyra Banks (media personality and actress) grilled Republican Mike Huckabee about his willingness to accept “the gay vote.” She told him she was asking him these questions because “I love the gays and the gays love me.” I found that sentence abhorrent, narrow-minded, and exclusionary – as if gay people are only good for Tyra to use as a political issue. The way she referred to gay people as “the gays” nettled me, too; imagine someone saying, “I love the blacks,” or “I love the Asians”!

But by using Barbie to defy the very stereotypical behavior that I bash above, I try to understand how stereotypes can harm us – and to also remember that being stereotypical is not necessarily a bad thing.

In fact, as symbolized by Barbie’s tragic suicide at the end of the skit, I posit that acceptance of people who conform to stereotypes (whether because they want to fit in, or because the stereotype genuinely sketches how they prefer to act) has not yet gone “mainstream.” We still often live with the anti-Foucaultdian ideals of the repressive hypothesis: We believe that the only way to conquer Big Brother is to defy his strictures. We never realize that Big Brother is really within us; we create our own rules, and we also create the ways to rebel against them. Barbie knew this, Barbie told us this, but even those who defy stereotypes just by being (e.g., Curious George, Ada and Eve) did not hear her, for they were content to watch her jump.

RIP Barbie

You can read my Sexame Street project, too.

Trivial Pursuit: Sexuality and American Culture Edition

Trivial Pursuit: Sexuality and American Culture Edition

For my creative project, I chose to create a board game – Trivial Pursuit: Sexuality and American Culture Edition. Initially, my intent was to create a game that would test the knowledge our class gained over the course of the semester in a fun, nontraditional way. However, I also believe if those who had read these specific novels (but had not taken this class) played the game, it might inspire the same discussion and debate that our class took part in.

(Alas, I did not take pictures of my own, so the visuals will have to come from John.)

Trivial Pursuit Questions

Katharine Maller’s final project

Final Project

(I will post a statement shortly)

Of Water and Definitions

As I think of the second half of Eugenides’ saga, the image two images seem to beg further investigation: Calliope at the library, finding out who she is (at least as far as a dictionary definition can limit) and Cal in Bob Presto’s peepshow, head above water and body visible to all, who pay a token, through the porthole below.  I’d like to comment on the second first. Read the rest of this entry »

Fixing the Unfixable

The Peiss piece “Transformation of Transsexual Jorgensen” poses a question that Cal in Middlesex must answer for himself. How xan people who are different be “cured”? And of course, we must ask ourselves not how they can be “cured,” but rather if they should be — and if the word “cure” should be used in the first place. Read the rest of this entry »

Within the Bounds of the Hetrosexual Imagination

Within the Bounds of the Heterosexual Imagination

I thought that Serlin’s essay Christine Jorgensen and the Cold War Closet drew some interesting parallels with Middlesex. Interestingly, the essay makes the assertion that Jorgensen was rejected by the general public after it was discovered that she was not a physical “hermaphrodite” who made the choice between the two sexes, but a man who chose to change his physical sex to become a woman.  The rhetoric used by the media after they discovered that Jorgensen had not undergone surgery to construct female genitalia was condemning, they called her “‘not a hermaphrodite, not a pseudohermaphrodite, and not a female.  The former George Jorgensen is a castrated male’” (Peiss, 392).  Although Cal would scientifically be termed a hermaphrodite, he made the choice to live as a male, which would’ve been accepted according to the standards that are put forth in the essay.

Additionally, the essay discusses the fact that Jorgensen had a boyfriend that was also in the military.  When Jorgensen was initially accepted as female by the media and American public, it was because as someone who had become a woman “she could be included within the bounds of the heterosexual imagination” (388).  At one point during the latter half of Middlesex, Cal observes that he began to live as a man not because he particularly felt like a male, not because he was more comfortable with males, but because of his desire for women and his androgynously  masculine physical appearance.  (I lost the place in the book, so I can’t cite a specific page).  In a way, Cal became a male to place his desire within the bounds of the heterosexual imagination, by becoming a man so that he could more freely be with women (in terms of society anyway, not in terms of his own hang-ups).

Speaking of the threshold of revelation…

Speaking of the threshold of revelation…

Part 2 of Angels in America provided the perfect set up for the second half of Middlesex, with Cal/Calliope providing the perfect portrait of the “threshold of revelation.”  Simply speaking, if I didn’t fully grasp it at the end of Angels in America, I certainly do now.

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