Written by guest blogger Wayne Batten.
Readers may well wonder how I became interested in this topic. When I somewhat belatedly realized how the internet had changed the conditions under which pornography is accessed and viewed, my reaction, particularly in light of my concern for young people who would likely encounter it, was a combination of shock and, to be truthfully melodramatic, heartbreak. At some point, it occurred to me that these are not far removed from Aristotle’s tragic emotions, fear and pity.
Since the prurient genre is not likely to go away or lose its appeal, I decided that I would make an effort to enculturate it, to domesticate the threat by exploring its tragic potential. A second impetus came in June of 2015, when I returned to the Victoria and Albert Museum and encountered Canova’s statue of Theseus and the Minotaur. Here was obscenity hiding in plain sight, melded with high art. Consequently, I became even more intrigued with the possibility that pornography too held something of great value, which needed the discipline of tragic theory to bring to light.
The resulting article has made me feel like Blanche Dubois: very much indebted to the kindness of strangers. In its original sprawling state, it brought one rejection without substantial comment. A second effort at submission resulted in an explanation from the editors that they did not consider “free lance” or over-the-transom work; however, they included an extensive list of film journals that would. From one of these, I received lengthy, astute, and very helpful comments and suggestions, which made me recall a comment that Charlotte Brontë (if I recall correctly) once made about receiving a letter of rejection so illuminating that it was more beneficial to her than a terse acceptance would have been. The present, revised article is thus the result of a good deal of professional kindness, which I may be fortunate enough someday to extend to other scholars.
Wayne Batten holds degrees from the University of Wyoming and Vanderbilt University. After a postdoctoral appointment in the Vanderbilt department of English, he served on the teaching faculty of Montgomery Bell Academy, an all-boys preparatory school in Nashville, Tennessee, for thirty years. Having retired in 2015, he has been researching and writing full time, largely in nineteenth-century literature. He has published articles on Kate Chopin, Jesse Hill Ford, and Charles Dickens. His current research extends to the art of adaptation and cinema. He resides with his partner of thirty-seven years in Nashville.