[Milton-L] "erotic" versus

James Rovira jamesrovira at gmail.com
Thu Jul 21 15:44:16 EDT 2011

Yes, you did address that claim, Richard, but I see your last response
as incompatible with some of your previous comments.  I think that you
essentially have to abandon the concept of pornography to protect
Mapplethorpe's work.  I would try to protect his work on aesthetic
grounds.  I think your most recent response is your real position, and
that some of your previous responses took the form that they did
occasionally just in the course of the argument.

My working definition of pornography is that it is some kind of
representational product whose primary, and usually only, goal is to
provide sexual stimulation for its consumers.  A typical pornographic
film, for example, does not attempt to achieve more than just one
emotion, sexual stimulation.  There's no real investment in plot,
character, or setting, or even actors who can act.  Camera angles and
lighting all tend toward the same effect.  There's really very little
subtlety on any level.

Jim R

On Thu, Jul 21, 2011 at 2:53 PM, richard strier <rastrier at uchicago.edu> wrote:
> Dear James,
> 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.

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