Linda Williams – Porn Studies (2004)

In “Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the “Frenzy of the Visible”, Linda Williams put moving-image pornography on the map of contemporary scholarship with her path-breaking analysis of the most popular and enduring of all film and video genres. Now, fifteen years later, she showcases the next generation of critical thinking about pornography and signals new directions for study and teaching.”Porn Studies” resists the tendency to situate pornography as the outer limit of what can be studied and discussed. It moves beyond futile feminist debates and distinctions between a ‘good’ erotica and a ‘bad’ hard core. With revenues totalling between ten and fourteen billion dollars annually – more than the combined revenues of professional American football, basketball, and baseball – this volume acknowledges that visual, hard-core pornography has emphatically arrived as a central feature of American popular culture. It is time, Williams contends, for scholars to recognize this and give pornography a serious and extended analysis. The essays in “Porn Studies” exemplify this effort. The contributors examine varieties of pornography from the tradition of the soft-core pin-up through the contemporary hard-core tradition of straight, gay, and lesbian videos and dvds to the burgeoning phenomenon of pornography on the internet.They explore, as examples of the genre, individual works as divergent as The Starr Report, the pirated Tommy Lee/Pamela Anderson honeymoon video and explicit Japanese ‘ladies comics’ consumed by women.They also probe difficult issues such as the sexualization of race and class and the relationship of pornography to the avant-garde. To take pornography seriously as an object of analysis also means teaching it. “Porn Studies” thus includes a useful annotated bibliography of readings and archival sources important to the study of pornography as a cultural form. The contributors include: Heather Butler; Rich Cante; Jake Gerli; Minette Hillyer; Nguyen Tan Hoang; Despina Kakoudaki; Franklin Melendez; Ara Osterweil; Zabet Patterson; Constance Penley; Angelo Restivo; Eric Schaefer; Michael Sicinski; Deborah Shamoon; Maria St. John; Tom Waugh; and, Linda Williams.

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“Thank God for Linda Williams! She is absolutely brilliant. I have learned an enormous amount from her over the years. She boldly goes where few academic dare. Porn Studies is a much needed, fascinating book, which paves the way and sets the tone for future porn studies.” Annie Sprinkle, postmodern pornographer and sexologist “For more than a decade, Linda Williams has been taking porn seriously. Her latest book, Porn Studies does not disappoint. She succeeds, once again, in legitimizing porn as an essential topic of academic study and provides a guide for teaching about it. For all those who want to know more about the place of porn in culture, this is refreshingly unabashed scholarship.” Susie Bright, author of Mommy’s Little Girl: On Sex, Pornography, Motherhood and Cherry Pie “Porn Studies does something remarkably simple … It treats pornography as a genre like any other, discussing hard and soft core simply in terms of their complex cultural representations. Gender politics is integral, but not as moralism… Editor Linda Williams, one of academic porn studies’ most influential voices, describes the book as transforming the obscene into the on-scene, bringing onto the stage of scrutiny that which lurked in the wings. The book will certainly help “the teacher and student of pornography roll up their sleeves to begin work in this field”, mitigating porn’s image as mainstream culture’s guilty secret.


Linda Williams is Professor of Film Studies and Rhetoric and Director of the Program in Film Studies and of the Center for New Media at the University of California, Berkeley. Her books include “Playing the Race Card: Melodramas of Black and White from Uncle Tom to O. J. Simpson”;” Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the “Frenzy of the Visible””; and “Viewing Positions: Ways of Seeing Film.”

Porn Studies
By Linda Williams
Paperback: 516 pages
Publisher: Duke University Press;
Published July 21 2004
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0822333120
ISBN-13: 978-0822333128

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