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PLEASURE AND SUSPICION

An Interdisciplinary Conference Hosted by Polygraph and the Literature Program

February 26-27, 2016

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?

This conference is tied thematically to an upcoming issue of Polygraph on the same topic. Participants are encouraged to submit articles for consideration by the Polygraph editorial collective. Conference program available here.