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Hard Core: Power, Pleasure and the "Frenzy of the Visible" [Paperback]

Linda Williams
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Jan 1990
In this unprecedented and brilliant study, Linda Williams moves beyond the impasse of anti-porn/anti-censorship position-taking to analyze what hard-core film pornography is and does - as a genre with a history, as a specific cinematic form, and as part of contemporary discourse on sexuality. Working against tendencies to oversimplify hard core - either as pure abusive power or pure liberatory pleasure - Williams sees the form as inherently contradictory. Hard core claims to speak confessional and involuntary 'truths' of sex. However, analysis of its forms (including its spectacular 'money shots' and sexual 'numbers' parallel to those in musicals) reveals that sex in the sense of a natural, visible 'doing what comes naturally' is in fact the supreme and deeply contradictory fiction of the genre. Gender, the social construction of the relation between the sexes, is what determines this fiction. For most of its history, pornography has been for men and about women. Yet in hard core's attempt to solve the riddles of sex with more, different, or better sex, the monolith of masculine pleasure breaks down and the possibility of women using pornography for their own purposes begins to emerge. To this end, Williams traces the roots of contemporary hard core's quest to see the 'truth' of sex back to the origins of cinema itself - in motion studies of women's bodily movements. She then follows the generic development of hard core through its silent, primitive stag form and into feature-length narratives like "Deep Throat" and "Behind the Green Door", up to its recent sadomasochistic and 'couples market' permutations - showing how the form has begun to respond and react to changing gender relations. Neither a defense of what pornography has been nor a utopian dream of what it should be, this daring book refuses simply to scapegoat the form as the cause of all our ills. Instead, Williams utilizes the insights of recent studies of mass culture to show that hard core is a discourse, a genre, and a rhetoric that can only be understood through comparison with, rather than separation from, other forms.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Rivers Oram Press/Pandora List; New edition edition (1 Jan 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0044408447
  • ISBN-13: 978-0044408444
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 13 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 723,729 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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""Hard Core is a brilliant demolition of the position that pornography represents one thing only. Arguing against the feminist case for censorship, Williams urges that we take pornography seriously, which does not mean that we like it, or that we believe it is art."--Alan Wolfe, "The New Republic --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Linda Williams is Professor of Film Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of Figures of Desire: A Theory and Analysis of Surrealist Film (California, 1981) and editor of Viewing Positions: Ways of Seeing Film (1995). --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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First Sentence
Toward the beginning of Denis Diderot's 1748 fable Les bijoux indiscrets (The Indiscreet Jewels), the genie Cucufa seeks to gratify the desire of the sultan Mangogul to have the women of his court speak frankly of their sexual adventures. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Academic study of porn 8 Jun 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Williams' book is a fascinating contribution to the embryonic academic study of the huge industry which is the porn industry. Williams looks at various aspects of porn giving us a slant on feminist contributions to the burgeoning debate. A scholarly and eloquently written work
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ground breaking look at Pornography 28 Jun 2011
By Pen
Linda Williams's highly influential study of hard core pornography. She finds much porn to be sexist and formulaic, but proposes not censorship, but female-friendly porn.

At a time when the UK still banned films containing images of adults having sex, the publication of Hard Core showed how impoverished and prudish the British mindset was (and is), and of course, the middlebrow middle class still rail against the idea that any text can be studied at a high academic level.
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1 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Well if you really want to get a virtually pointless degree in some arty farty subject that will add nothing to your employability and £20,000 to your overdraft then this book sums up the sort of irrelevant intellectual popcorn you'll definitely need to read. Buy it second hand and you can re-sell it un-used.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting 7 May 2004
By "mytilene" - Published on
This is an easy to read, comprehensive analysis of visual pornography. Williams is thorough and openminded, and clearly shows that this isn't a homogenous and stereotypical genre. On the contrary, she maintains that all trends visible in other types of movies exist in pornography as well. An interesting read.
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for anyone interested in sexuality and culture 6 Jun 2014
By Mr. Thursday - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Williams views pornography through feminist and marxist lenses, discussing its embattled political history and its potentially liberating and delimiting effects on culture.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book 25 Mar 2013
By Roberto - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It's an amazing book. For everyone who is searching for a non-christian, non-conservative opinion about pornography. This book presents a new feminist look about the theme
14 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of Harcore 7 Aug 2000
By A Customer - Published on
This book changed my my mind about I saw pornography. This is a smart and sexy book that dispels many ideas we have about pornography and how the feminist anti-pron rhetoric not only endangers the First Amendment with their calls for taking this protection from porn, but retains the patriarchal concept of female purity that promotes a sexual double standard. This books opens a dialogue and forum for women to talk about pornography. I only wished I hadn't read it ten years earlier, because my copy doesn't have pictures.
9 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Book on Pornography I Have Ever Read 7 Dec 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Linda Williams gives a scintillating evaluation of the politics of porn. Her detailed and insightful analysis goes beyond mere recitation of plot points and totaling of body parts to an in-depth engagement with the semiotics of pornographized couplings. The pictures were really helpful in conveying the cultural work done by this underevaluated art form. Porn-tastic!
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