Book Review – Troubled Everyday: The Aesthetics of Violence and the Everyday in European Art Cinema

Review of Troubled Everyday: The Aesthetics of Violence and the Everyday in European Art Cinema by Alison Taylor. Edinburgh University Press, 2017. Review by Alice Haylett Bryan, King's College London, UK. So often European extreme cinema is spoken about in terms of shock, spectacle and provocation that we forget that the narratives of many of these films are grounded in the everyday, and even the banal. In her book Troubled Everyday, Alison Taylor addresses this oversight, carrying out a formal analysis of a range of films such as Michael (Markus Schleinzer and Kathrin Resetarits 2011), Twentynine Palms (Bruno Dumont 2003) and I Stand Alone/Seul contre tous (Gaspar Noé 1998) in order to reframe the extreme through its relationship with the quotidian. Taylor argues that it is the tension between extremity and the ordinary that gives these films their affective power, a tension that refuses clear-cut meaning and hermeneutic closure, and spills out beyond the screen as part of their intrusive viewing experience. 

Book Review – Gay Pornography: Representations of Sexuality and Masculinity

Review of Gay Pornography: Representations of Sexuality and Masculinity by John Mercer. I. B. Tauris. 2017. Review by Brandon Arroyo, Concordia University, Canada. The title of John Mercer’s book certainly intends to make an impression. With an assertive, commanding, and all-encompassing title like Gay Pornography, one eagerly wonders if this might be the contemporary sequel to Thomas Waugh’s foundational Hard to Imagine (1996). However, Mercer’s aims are far more modest - yet no less essential - than Waugh’s. I bring this up to suggest that the over-reaching title ultimately overshadows the sensible and focused line of thought maintained throughout. A more accurate title might have been: Gay Pornography’s Keywords, because of its success in articulating a vocabulary describing the role of gay pornographic culture within masculinist society. This is the book’s primary contribution: to provide readers with a unifying discursive framework through which to understand gay pornography’s contemporary mediascape. Mercer’s keywords are the linguistic tools essential to producing dynamic pornographic studies in the future.

Book Review – Beyond Speech: Pornography and Analytic Feminist Philosophy

review by Martin Fradley, University of Brighton. In their introduction to Beyond Speech, Hilkje Charlotte Hänel and Mari Mikkola state that this new collection of essays has two core aims: firstly, to take stock of extant feminist debates on pornography and, secondly, to ‘examine some newer lines of inquiry and investigate what they can tell us about still-unsettled conceptual and political questions’ (11). The ‘speech’ of the book’s title refers to Catherine MacKinnon’s (1987) famous legal argument that pornography should be understood as a series of violent ‘speech acts’, which ultimately serve to silence, subordinate and harm all women. Tellingly, the writers here almost all begin with the premise that pornography can be ‘harmful’, and Beyond Speech contains a dozen original essays that subsequently defend, challenge and re-evaluate some of the most important feminist interventions in what was once (rather quaintly) referred to as ‘the pornography debate’.

Book Review – Vibrator Nation: How Feminist Sex-Toy Stores Changed the Business of Pleasure

Review of Lynn Comella’s Vibrator Nation: How Feminist Sex-Toy Stores Changed the Business of Pleasure. Duke University Press. September 2017 (HB £79.00 and PB £20.99). 296 pages. 41 illustrations. review by Caroline West, Dublin City University.