[Milton-L] "erotic" versus
rastrier at uchicago.edu
Thu Jul 21 14:53:36 EDT 2011
I'm losing my sense of what's at issue here. Perhaps if you would remind me of
how you define "pornography," that would help.
I thought I already countered the (supposedly on my view) "all nude images
must perform essentially the same work" claim in my mention of "complexity."
---- Original message ----
>Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2011 14:22:38 -0400
>From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu (on behalf of James Rovira
<jamesrovira at gmail.com>)
>Subject: Re: [Milton-L] "erotic" versus
>To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
>Richard: Thank you for your responses. In this post, you sound to me
>(as I suspected) as someone who is looking at the same middle ground
>as I am from a slightly different vantage point. A problem enters in,
>though, when we collapse the distinction between art and pornography.
>At that point, all nude images must perform essentially the same work,
>and that collapsing creates different problems, as is evident in your
>response to my Mapplethorpe question. You actually avoided my
>question about Mapplethorpe. I didn't ask if it should be censored or
>if it led to brutality against children. I only asked if it was child
>pornography. This question does lead to these other questions, but
>it's the starting question. Your answers have to do with the nature
>of audience responses, while mine had to do with the nature of the
>artwork itself. How we should respond to pornography is a question
>that we ask after we have defined it.
>I do agree that a response of sexual arousal to a work of art does not
>invalidate a work as being artistic, even if the intent of the work is
>to arouse. But, as we move further and further away from porn and
>more into art (acknowledging a middle ground or gray area),
>identifying the intent to arouse becomes more and more difficult.
>Continuing with the example of Mapplethorpe, I spent a little bit of
>time looking over Mapplethorpe's nudes on his website. HIs nudes are
>certainly beautiful, but not necessarily arousing for me: the formal
>qualities of his photographs -- geometric proportion, interplay of
>shades gray between black and white -- are what seems the most
>striking. His 1986 photograph of Lydia Cheng makes his subject look
>like architecture or a bronze sculpture, as does his 1982 photograph
>of Derrick Cross. His photograph of Patti Smith in 1976 emphasizes
>vulnerability, which is one heck of a thing to emphasize about Patti
>Smith in the 70s. The formal qualities of these photographs overwhelm
>their sexual content and actually seem to approach Milton's "Naked
>majestie" at times.
>Can a viewer still respond sexually? Of course, but in these cases
>it's hard to see that the photograph attempts to provoke that
>response. Most pornography only aims for that response. I appreciate
>Brendan's follow-up, but I think he has a somewhat rosier picture of
>pornography than I do. Most porn is bad porn. When it's not, it's in
>danger of becoming art.
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