Brokeback Mountain: Primal Scenes on American Screens

lecture by Linda Williams
Thursday, May 28, 2009 - 7:00pm

Introduction by Professor Lauren Berlant, Departments of English, Cinema & Media Studies and Gender Studies

Since Deliverance, anal sex between men has been portrayed in mainstream American movies as a kind of "fate worse than death" that spoils the innocence and reputation of its male "victim." Brokeback Mountain is the first simulated (non-hard-core) American film to ask audiences to witness sex between men as an irresistible and dangerous pleasure. In this chapter of her book, Screening Sex, Linda Williams reads the film against its legal background in the Lawrence v. Texas Supreme Court ruling that struck down sodomy laws and as a case study of the primal scene's "first witnessing" of sexual pleasure originally understood as a form of violence and pain.

Linda Williams is Professor of Film Studies and Rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley, and a leading feminist scholar on the history and theory of on-screen sex.

Co-sponsored by Center for Gender Studies, Committee on Cinema & Media Studies