CFP: Pleasure and Suspicion

John Stadler's picture
February 26, 2016 to February 27, 2016
North Carolina, United States
Subject Fields: 
Women's & Gender History / Studies, Sexuality Studies, Popular Culture Studies, Literature, Film and Film History

“Pleasure and Suspicion”


Conference Hosted by Duke University Program in Literature and the Polygraph editorial collective

February 26-27, 2016


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


Keynote addresses by Joan Copjec, Brown University & Eugenie Brinkema, MIT


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.