For a discipline largely rooted in the history and representation of naked bodies, art history is shockingly squeamish when it comes to sex. University of Minnesota Press, Art historians, even contemporary art critics, tend to talk around the subject-grounding it safely in a long-passed era, formally analyzing it dispassionately, explaining it away as the unseemly source of something more important-in ways that Jennifer Doyle courageously confronts in Sex Objects: You are not currently authenticated.
Whether she's just watching or actively participating, whether turned on or bored, thinking or crying, or most likely all of these at once, Doyle shows how crucial a queer feminist perspective is to understanding the erotics of art. The most interesting part of the book for me was where it deals with the notion of boredom, and its depiction in certain works. Like a brassy fag hag crashing a gay sex party, Jennifer Doyle mixes it up here with a queer lot. Utilizing a cross-section of case studies from the literary and art historical canons juxtaposed with those from pop culture and subcultures, in Sex Objects Doyle zeroes in on work that "asks us to take it personally" and invites "the spectator to imagine a place for his or her body" to critique the still-dominant scholarly "assumption that the precondition for critical thought is emotional distance" In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content: Deftly interweaving anecdotal and personal writing with critical, feminist, and queer theory, she re-imagines the relationship between sex and art in order to better understand how the two meet—and why it matters. With case studies ranging from Melville to painter Thomas Eakins, Andy Warhol to Tracy Emin, and concluding with a particularly delicious juxtaposition of the contemporary artists Vanessa Beecroft and Vaginal Davis, Sex Objects satisfyingly follows through on the author's desire to "approach the subject of sex and art from diverse angles to create a picture of how sex happens in art, and why it matters" xxxi. Art and the Dialectics of Desire. View freely available titles: Her efforts aren't always convincing-comparing one sailor's dressing in a whale's penis skin with Marlene Dietrich vamping in an ape costume in Blonde Venus is a bit of a stretch, however humorous-but they are inspired and beautifully set up the book's subsequent discussion of the nineteenth-century realist painter Thomas Eakins, whose similarly seductive, visceral work was caught up in scandal when his studio work collided with his teaching career. However, after launching a well-deserved critique of these tendencies to read Eakins's sexuality through a "gay-straight opposition" 21 , Doyle rereads both Eakins's canonical works The Gross Clinic and Swimming Hole as well as his photographic studies by way of his relationships to female students one of whom, Susan MacDowell, became his wife and the sex scandals relating to women that dogged his career, effectively if uniquely queering his still In her comically entitled breakdown of "Moby-Dick's Boring Parts," Doyle draws attention to Melville's famously sensuous prose through the book's rarely discussed "cetology chapters," which depart from the main plot but whose eroticism Doyle seeks to recover and celebrate. She examines the works of Herman Melville, Thomas Eakins, Andy Warhol, Tracey Emin, Vanessa Beecroft and Vaginal Davis in relation to how they are situated within sexual politics, especially in terms of feminism and queer theory. You are not currently authenticated. The most interesting part of What this book could benefit from is a change of title - the chapters touch on so many different subjects but "desire" is rarely there. Maria Elena Buszek Sex Objects: For a discipline largely rooted in the history and representation of naked bodies, art history is shockingly squeamish when it comes to sex. Doyle explores the work of several very different artists spanning myriad disciplines in order to demonstrate that oftentimes the desire to find "sex" in art leads to a sort of performance anxiety on the part of the artist, performer or audience: Doyle suggests that much writing about sex in art is essentially reductive in its prosaic boosterism of sexual expression, and reminds us that the other side of arousal is boredom-- the thwarting, or failure of desire and interest. While Doyle is a literary scholar and associate professor of English at the University of California, Riverside , she has staked out a position as something of an "insider-outsider" in her willingness not only to address the field of art history on its own terms but also to ask questions about its subjects and methodologies that often reveal the elitism, formalism, timid politics, and fear of pleasure at its core. She is particularly interested in how Melville's rambling descriptions of whaling minutiae in these "boring parts" of the novel reflect and generate a heightened sense of desire, wherein Melville's mad enthusiasm for the whale's body seems to act upon Melville's and the reader's own. Jennifer Doyle Complicates the role sex plays in art—from the scandalous to the absurd Moving beyond debates about pornography and censorship, Jennifer Doyle shows us that sex in art is as diverse as sex in everyday life: A Magazine of the Arts Doyle demonstrates a sure understanding of the latest methodology and critical possibilities of queer theory. Apr 19, Lauren Deland rated it really liked it It is difficult to talk about the sketchy, tenuous, and completely subjective lines that separate "art" from "pornography" without delving into the personal, which Doyle bravely does in this narrative-driven critical study of sex in art and popular culture. Moving beyond debates about pornography and censorship, Jennifer Doyle shows us that sex in art is as diverse as sex in everyday life:
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Sex Objects Art And The Dialectics Of Desire
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