ANG6157 Studies in Popular Literature
Fall 2011

Masculinity and Pornography in/as Popular Culture


This course will explore the intersections between men’s studies and pornography in/and popular culture, from 1914 (with the publication of Burroughs’ Tarzan) to 2011 (with the publication of Brown’s Paying for It). Within the larger theoretical framework of gender studies and cultural studies, students will engage with the social and historical constructions of men in a series of texts ranging from children’s literature and graphic novels to postmodern works. [Please be advised that several of the works under consideration contain explicit sexual descriptions.]


  • Two 15’-20’/2250-3000 word in-class presentations on one of the works studied: 60% (30% each) [Final versions of the presentations must be emailed to the instructor by 8pm the night before.] Presentations should be on any aspect of (one of) the work(s) under consideration on the day selected by the students. Students should bear in mind that the grade will be based on the written essay, not on the oral delivery.
  • Revised and expanded version of one of the in-class presentations: 40% (4500-6000 word essays are due by email on January 4th)

Works Studied:

  • Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan of the Apes (1914) Ed. Jason Haslam; OUP, 2010; ISBN: 978-0199542888.
  • Patricia Highsmith, The Talented Mr Ripley (1955) Norton, 2008; ISBN 978-0393332148.
  • Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man (1964) U of Minnesota P, 2001; ISBN 978-0816638628.
  • Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club (1996) Norton, 2005; ISBN 978-0393327342. (Also available as an e-book in the Kindle store and the iBookstore.)
  • Edmund White, The Married Man: A Novel (2000) Vintage, 2001; ISBN 978-0679781448. (Also available as an e-book in the Kindle store.)
  • Joe Matt, Spent (2007) Drawn & Quarterly, 2007; ISBN 978-1897299111. (This graphic novel will not be available in the university bookstore.)
  • Russell Smith, Girl Crazy (2010) Harper, 2011; ISBN 978-1554685356. (Also available as an e-book in the iBookstore.)
  • Bret Easton Ellis, Imperial Bedrooms (2010) Vintage, 2001; ISBN 978-0307278692. (Also available as an e-book in the Kindle store.)
  • Chester Brown, Paying for It: A Comic-strip Memoir about Being a John (2011) Drawn & Quarterly, 2007; ISBN 978-1770460485. (This graphic novel will not be available in the university bookstore.)


  • Monday 12 September: Introduction
  • Monday 19 September: On Popular Culture, Men’s Studies, and Pornography
  • Monday 26 September: Class cancelled
  • Monday 3 October: Tarzan (Pilon, Chaban, Dzialowski)
  • Monday 10 October: Thanksgiving
  • Monday 17 October: The Talented Mr Ripley (Lupeiko, Deguire, Dzialowski, Fabrizi)
  • Monday 24 October: Reading week
  • Monday 31 October: A Single Man (Couillard, Chaban, Gorzo)
  • Monday 7 November: Fight Club (Lupeiko, Meddeb, Hosseini)
  • Monday 14 November: The Married Man: A Novel (Khemakhem, Gorzo)
  • Monday 21 November: Spent (Couillard, Deguire, McDevitt)
  • Monday 28 November: Girl Crazy (Meddeb, Pilon)
  • Monday 5 December: Imperial Bedrooms (Hosseini, Khemakhem)
  • Monday 12 December: Paying for It (McDevitt, Fabrizi)

Secondary Criticism:

  • 19/09: Bryce Traister, ‘Academic Viagra: The Rise of American Masculinity Studies’, American Quarterly 52, 2 (2000) — David Buchbinder, ‘Object or Ground? The Male Body as Fashion Accessory’, Canadian Review of American Studies 34, 3 (2004) — Lauren M. E. Goodlad, ‘Looking for Something Forever Gone: Gothic Masculinity, Androgyny, and Ethics at the Turn of the Millennium’, Cultural Critique 66 (2007) — Elizabeth Birmingham, ‘Shifting Discipline in Women’s Studies: Studies of Masculinities, Pornographies, and Sexualities’, NWSA 19, 2 (2007) — Carolyn Dean, ‘The Great War, Pornography, and the Transformation of Modern Male Subjectivity’, Modernism/Modernity 3, 2 (1996) — Christy Mag Uidhir, ‘Why Pornography Can’t be Art’, Philosophy and Literature 33, 1 (2009) — Mimi Vasilaki, ‘Why Some Pornography May be Art’, Philosophy and Literature 34, 1 (2010).
  • 3/10: Jeff Berglund, ‘Write, Right, White, Rite: Literacy, Imperialism, Race, and Cannibalism in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan of the Apes ‘, Studies in American Fiction 27 (1999).
  • 17/10: Edward A. Shannon, ‘”Where Was the Sex?” Fetishism and Dirty Minds in Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley‘, Modern Language Studies34, 1/2 (2004) — Alex Tuss, ‘Masculine Identity and Success: A Critical Analysis of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley and Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club‘, Journal of Men’s Studies 12 (2004).
  • 31/10: Jonathan H. Fryer, ‘Sexuality in Isherwood’, Twentieth-Century Literature 22, 3 (1976); Victor Marsh, ‘On “The Problem of the Religious Novel”: Christopher Isherwood and A Single Man‘, Literature and Theology 24, 4 (2010).
  • 7/11: Krister Friday, ‘A Generation of Men Without History: Fight Club, Masculinity, and the Historical Symptom’, Postmodern Culture 13.3 (2003) — Sandie Graver, ‘Marla, Freud, Religion, and Manhood: An Interpretation of David Fincher’s Fight Club’, Journal of Religion and Popular Culture II (Fall 2002) — Sally Robinson, ‘Feminized Men and Inauthentic Women: Fight Club and the Limits of Anti-Consumerist Critique’, Genders 53 (Spring 2011)
  • 14/11: Mark Mascolini, ‘AIDS, Arts and Responsibilities: An Interview with Edmund White’, The Body (August 2005); Tony Purvis, ‘America’s ‘‘White’’ Cultural and Sexual Dissensus: The Fictions of Edmund White’, Journal of American Studies 42 (2008).
  • 21/11: Catherine Zuromskis, ‘Prurient Pictures and Popular Film: The Crisis of Pornographic Representation’, The Velvet Light Trap 59 (2007) — Kaarine Nikunen, ‘Porn Star as Brand: Pornification and the Intermedia Career of Rakel Liekki’, The Velvet Light Trap 59 (2007)
  • 28/11: John N. Duvall, ‘The Pleasure of Textual/Sexual Wrestling: Pornography and Heresy in Roger’s Version‘, Modern Fiction Studies 31, 1 (1991)
  • 5/12: Daniel Cojocaru, ‘Confessions of an American Psycho James Hogg’s and Bret Easton Ellis’s Anti-Heroes’ Journey from Vulnerability to Violence’, Contagion: Journal of Violence, Mimesis, and Culture, 15/16 (2008-2009)
  • 12/12: Laura María Agustín, ‘New Research Directions: The Cultural Study of Commercial Sex’, Sexualities 8 (2005); Elizabeth Bernstein, ‘Sex Work for the Middle Classes’, Sexualities 10 (2007).

This content has been updated on January 4, 2020 at 22 h 09 min.