Doubled/Troubled pleasure: Looking at erotic visual art from the German-speaking world

NeMLA 2016 Hartford, CT (March 17-20, 2016)


This panel looks at paintings, film, graphic novels, photography, and other visual art from German-speaking countries that feature erotic themes. It describes and compares the strategies which the artists use to answer (and question) our desire for an erotic visual experience.


The pleasure of looking at visual art is doubled, but also troubled when it comes to the erotica genre. There, the viewer gazes at the canvas, screen, or page in search of aesthetic as well as erotic stimulation. Far from naively delivering gullible pictures, many visual artists are aware of this double desire and self-reflexively play with this knowledge.

This panel invites scholars to think through the genre of erotic visual art as it appears in the German-speaking world. From Egon Schiele’s erotic portraits, Franz von Bayros’ décadence illustrations, Ernst Hofbauer’s film series Schulmädchen-Report, Helmut Newton’s act photography, and Ulli Lust’s comic Springpoem, there is no lack of high-quality erotic visual art. Possible lines of inquiry include, but are not limited to the following questions:

·         How do we “read” these erotic paintings, films, photographs, and graphic novels? How, for instance, do artists use showing and hiding? What influence does the degree of realism or abstraction have? How does the depiction of the erotic intersect with humor?

·         Are there any systematic differences between the way the German-speaking artists tackle “juicy” visual art as opposed to artists and movements from other countries?

·         How can we use concepts across the disciplines–such as gaze theory or Barthes’ distinction between plaisir and juissance–to understand the pleasure of engaging with erotic visual art?

·         How does German graphic art navigate the boundary between pornography and art if there even is such a boundary?


The panel is intended to take stock of a body of visual art which has been a staple of commercial production, but has not yet received much academic attention in the context of German Studies. It surveys the existing body of artifacts and traces the influences, but also differences between visual art in the German-speaking world and elsewhere.

Please send your submission of 250-300 words no later than September 30, 2015 to [log in to unmask].


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