The Politics of Pleasure: Latin America Queered, Exposed, Affected

SPAN 535

This seminar focuses on the implications, possibilities, and failures of a Latin America “of sex” or rather a Latin America “with a sexuality.”


In The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1, Michel Foucault posits, “We...are in a society of ‘sex,’ or rather a society ‘with a sexuality’: the mechanisms of power are addressed to the body, to life, to what causes it to proliferate, to what reinforces the species, its stamina, its ability to dominate, or its capacity for being used” (147). Foucault’s reading of sexuality’s evolving historical position in modern societies describes how sex and sexual identities have been captured and converted into social and political structures—circumscribed by a biological imperative to expose modern societies to life or death. Departing from Foucault’s critical gesture, this seminar focuses on the implications, possibilities, and failures of a Latin America “of sex” or rather a Latin America “with a sexuality.” Foregrounding the affective nature of “pleasure” as an auspicious contour of sex, this seminar provokes these associations through literary and critical texts that problematize and extend ideas of sexuality in Latin America.


With attention to the aesthetics, ethics, and politics of pleasure, this seminar brings feminist, queer, and affect theories to bear on Latin American cultural and intellectual production. That is, to expose possible blind spots and to linger in the messiness of critical and theoretical uncertainties. In practice, the assigned readings bring together seemingly contradictory or disparate texts, to work toward alternative or divergent reading methods that could account for the socio-political location of sex and sexuality in Latin American literary and cultural studies. Literary assignments include narratives by Horacio Castellanos Moya, Salvador Elizondo, Alberto Fuguet, Ariel Magnus, Sylvia Molloy, Octavio Paz, Cristina Rivera Garza, and Luis Zapata. The theoretical praxis of the seminar draws on feminist theory, queer theory, continental philosophy, and cultural criticism: Sara Ahmed, Leo Bersani, Lauren Berlant, Teresa de Lauretis, Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Derrida, Brad Epps, Michel Foucault, Sigmund Freud, Erin Graff Zivin, Elizabeth Grosz, Emmanuel Levinas, Juana María Rodríguez, Renata Salecl, Darieck Scott, and Michael Warner. Seminar discussions will be conducted in English, Spanish, and Portuguese; however, students must be able to read and understand Spanish.


Meets with CWL 562/GWS 581B. Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory Affiliated Course.

Thursdays, 3:00-6:30pm, 1118 Foreign Languages Building

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