Especially Heinous: Sexual Violence in Contemporary Culture

Instructor: Erin Spampinato

Erin A. Spampinato holds a PhD in English literature from the Graduate Center, CUNY, and specializes in the aesthetic and cultural history of gender and sexual violence. Her publications on the topic include “A Brief History of the Literary Incel,” forthcoming in the Routledge Companion to Masculinity in American Literature and Culture and “Rereading Rape in the Critical Canon: Adjudicative Criticism and the Capacious Conception,” forthcoming for differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies. Spampinato’s non-academic writing has appeared in The Guardian and Electric Literature, among other venues. She currently serves as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University.

Course Registration (due July 28th)

When: Thursdays, July 29th to August 19th, from 7-9 PM ET/4-6 PM PT

Cost: $325 via PayPal (scholarships available)

This course will provide students an opportunity to reflect on their own entanglements and investments in contemporary rape culture. How can we combat rape culture through our own intellectual investigation of the popular media which perpetuates it? How can we protect ourselves and others from the pernicious messages we encounter everywhere? Finally, what kinds of art, media, or culture might we create in defiance of rape culture?

Various representations of sexual violence will be studied through the lenses of law, philosophy, ethics, and psychology. Our central conceptual question will be: how does culture use representations of sexual violence? Relevant, contemporary media and events will be analyzed including, but not limited to, the Kavanaugh hearings and their relation to our collective social trauma, Law and Order and how “crime porn” contributes to our cultural fantasies regarding sexual violence, and Know My Name and Promising Young Woman and how they challenge assumptions surrounding revenge, redemption, survivorship, and victimhood. 

Class discussions will explore the following: Do representations of sexual violence help survivors, or do such representations further violate people who have been subject to sexual violence? Do representations work to subdue the survivor’s desire to testify to their experiences, or show them how to do so effectively? Do representations ask the victimized to trust authority or question it? 

Because students may bring their own histories of trauma into the room with them, most classes will include both intellectual analysis and embodied creative work on the topic in question.

If you would like to attend the course but have financial constraints, limited scholarships are available.