Dr Romana Byrne – Aesthetic Sexuality

Date: 18 February 2014, 5.00pm
Location: Seminar Room, Beech Grove House

Upon its translation in 1978, the first volume of Foucault’s The History of Sexuality established the terms and trajectory of sexuality studies in the Anglophone West, with its key contention that sexuality is a culturally-specific production of the nineteenth century’s scientia sexualis. But what of the ars erotica, which Foucault initially stated is absent from modern Western culture?

If a history of the ars erotica can indeed be traced in the modern West, and traced in Foucauldian fashion, “from the viewpoint of a history of discourses,” what exactly are we looking for, and where might we look for it? In developing key ideas from my book Aesthetic Sexuality: A Literary History of Sadomasochism (Bloomsbury, January 2014), I approach these questions by arguing that a form of ars erotica is evinced in what I call ‘aesthetic sexuality.’

In this lecture, I will introduce the concept of aesthetic sexuality, consider how this sexual category can be studied as a cultural production, and discuss the methodological implications this concept raises for sexuality studies.