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“Pleasure and Suspicion”

Conference Hosted by Duke University and the Polygraph editorial collective

February 26-27, 2016


Abstracts of 250-300 words Due by November 16, 2015 to
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Keynote addresses by:

Joan Copjec, Brown University

Eugenie Brinkema, MIT

Jennifer Doyle, University of California, Riverside

Can we ever trust our pleasures? Modern feminist and queer discourses have
long interrogated pleasure to demystify the structures of power that
undergird, circumscribe, and interpellate the subject. A suspicion toward
pleasure surfaces, for example, in Anne Koedt’s rejection of the “myth of
the vaginal orgasm,” Laura Mulvey’s analysis of visual pleasure in cinema,
Catherine MacKinnon’s critique of pornography, Gayle Rubin’s
conceptualization of a charmed circle of sexuality, Foucault’s turn from
paradigms of desire to “bodies and pleasure,” and Linda William’s genre
analysis of pleasure in the pornographic “frenzy of the visible”. Pleasure
threatens the psychic and political sovereignty of the subject, raising
questions about the relationship between public and private forces in the
construction and expression of subjectivity.

Pleasure’s constructedness, its violences, and its normativities have
offered rich approaches to questions of race, class, affect, culture,
representation, gender, and sexuality, especially in their points of
intersection. But suspicion, too, has its pleasures, and it is to this
complicated mise en abyme (the pleasure of suspicion, the suspicion of
pleasure) that we turn our attention. In the last two decades, debates over
critical reading practices have raised doubts about suspicious, or
“paranoid,” reading as a sufficient method of producing knowledge from
texts. The suspicion of suspicion has, it would seem, generated new ways to
find pleasure in the text through reparative reading, surface reading, data
mining, and so on. To what extent are the erotics of reading bound to the
pleasure/suspicion dyad? And what are the political implications of this
critical configuration?

We invite papers that model the suspicion of pleasure, the pleasure of
suspicion, and/or papers that reject, critique, or otherwise engage with
these categories. This conference is tied thematically to an upcoming issue
of Polygraph, an international journal of culture and politics affiliated
with the Literature Program at Duke University. Participants are encouraged
to submit articles for consideration by the Polygraph editorial collective.

Competitive Travel Fellowships may be available to scholars who demonstrate
financial need. Please indicate in your abstract whether your participation
would be contingent upon this supplementary support.

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