Reification and Pornotopia

by Scott McLemee on November 18, 2007

A few months ago, Nina at Infinite Thought offered an appreciation of the difference between the playfulness of vintage European porn films (from roughly 1905 to 1930) and the more industrialized contemporary product:

The first thing you notice is the sheer level of silliness on show: sex isn’t just a succession of grim orgasms and the parading of physical prowess, but something closer to slapstick and vaudeville. Men pretend to be statues of fauns for curious women to tickle; two seamstresses fall into a fit of giggles as their over-excited boss falls off the bed; a bawdy waitress serves a series of sexually-inspired meals to a man dressed as a musketeer before joining him for ‘dessert’. This kind of theatrical role-play pre-empts many of the clichés of contemporary pornography, of course: nuns, school-mistresses, the ‘peeping tom’ motif, and so on. But the beauty of these early short films lies in the details, the laughter of its participants and the sheer variety of the bodies on parade: the unconventionally attractive mingle with the genuinely pretty; large posteriors squish overjoyed little men. The fact that the rules of pornographic film-making haven’t yet been formally established, as well as the rudimentary nature of the film equipment, means that often the filming cuts off before any sort of climax, which only adds to the amateurish, unstructured, anarchic charm of it all.

At Quick Study, I’ve posted a short response to another recent Infinite Thought item developing this line of reflection.

It has prompted a discussion touching — so far — on Sade, Steven Marcus, and the days when everybody in a pornographic novel would recharge their orgy batteries by stopping to listen to a lecture on Enlightenment philosophy.

If this sounds like it might float your boat, stop by. Quick Study is my personal blog, and I’ve been averse to pushing here at Crooked Timber, but what the hell….Diffidence gets you no traffic. (But the start of the semester sure did; it seems that freshmen Google the words “quick study” in an effort to increase the amount of time they can spend getting wasted.)

“A story of liberal misgovernment on an epic scale”

by John Holbo on November 18, 2007

Ross Douthat on the great Reagan race-baiting debate. Douthat’s take: “Yes, that part was shameful, but that’s not the complete picture.” The ‘complete picture’ is more like: the great Goldwater-to-Reagan Republican realignment is “a story of liberal misgovernment on an epic scale, in which race played an important but ultimately subsidiary role.” [click to continue…]