Sex and the New Southern Studies

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American Comparative Literature Association

From Freud's description of Uncle Tom's Cabin as a source of sadomasochistic "phantasy" to the depictions of polymorphous perversity in the work of Kara Walker, literary and artistic representations of the South have been bound up in representations of sexuality and violence. This seminar will ask how the New Southern Studies both reforms itself and becomes deformed by its recent collision with sexuality studies and queer studies. What kinds of sex are strangely unspeakable, or differently silent, in the South and how does their gravitational pull transform such sexual organizations as lynching, Jim Crow, same-sex plantation life, miscegenation, incest, and others? How might a sexualized South function in a national or transnational imaginary? What role does sexual violence play in maintaining the racial order of chattel slavery? How do anxieties about interracial sex and admixture inform both the legal strictures of Jim Crow and the narrative logics of lynching and literatures of the global South? What peculiar sexual formations accrue around the "peculiar institution" of slavery? What sexual possibilities and threats emerge with Reconstruction? We will consider these questions and many others as we attempt to take stock of this emerging field.

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