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The Literature of Desire:
The vicissitudes of erotic life have always been difficult to catch hold of in writing, in part because the vocabulary of sexual experience is so curiously limited — either patently euphemistic or cringingly flowery. The corporeal solipsism of the activity — the fact that it usually takes place in a duo yet is experienced alone, inside the self — may also have something to do with it. Whatever the reason, badly-written sex scenes, are easier to locate than well-written ones.
So why, then, has it always been and continues to be so difficult to write about sexual desire? With the advent of #MeToo, the whole arena has become even more freighted — what do we mean, exactly by “consent”, for instance, and when does a flirtatious remark from a man feel inappropriate or even threatening — but that only makes the effort to write about it that much more challenging. And necessary.
In these four powerful and candid classes, acclaimed literary critic, essayist and novelist Daphne Merkin will consider three books that she deems masterpieces of erotic writing. In the first session (May 25), Merkin will discuss The Lover by Marguerite Duras. In the second session (June 1), she will discuss Nothing Natural by Jenni Diski and in session three (June 8), she will discuss Simple Passion by Annie Ernaux. In the fourth and final session (June 15), Daphne will be joined by feminist and psychologist Carol Gilligan and cultural critic Mark Greif for a discussion of the meaning of desire, sexual obsession and the power dynamics of domination and submission.
Purchase 22 Minutes of Unconditional Love: A Novel.
This program will take place on Tuesday, May 25, June 1, 8, and 15 from 6:30-7:30 pm ET. Sessions will be recorded and available for later viewing by those who register.
Programs taking place online:An access link will be emailed to you after purchase.
Programs taking place in our NYC facilities:Please read our safety guidelines before visiting our building.
Programs taking place online and in our NYC facilities:Please select which experience you wish to participate in when registering. Online participants will be emailed an access link after purchase. In-person participants should read our safety guidelines before attending the program.
Daphne Merkin is the author of the novels 22 Minutes of Unconditional Love, coming out in paperback from Picador in July 2021, and Enchantment (1986) …
Daphne Merkin is the author of the novels 22 Minutes of Unconditional Love, coming out in paperback from Picador in July 2021, and Enchantment (1986), which won the Edward Lewis Wallant Award for best novel on a Jewish theme and was reissued with an introduction by Vivian Gornick by Picador in 2020. She has also published a memoir about her struggle with depression, This Close to Happy (2017), as well as two collections of essays, The Fame Lunches (2014) and Dreaming of Hitler (1997). A former staff writer for The New Yorker, Merkin's cultural criticism and book reviews frequently appear in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bookforum, The New York Review of Books, The New Republic, Tablet, Departures, and many other publications. Merkin has taught writing at 92nd Street Y, Marymount Manhattan College, Hunter College and Columbia University’s MFA program. She lives in New York City and teaches private writing classes. Daphne-merkin.com
Carol Gilligan is a professor of Humanities and Applied Psychology at New York University. She is best known for her 1982 book, In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development …
Carol Gilligan is a professor of Humanities and Applied Psychology at New York University. She is best known for her 1982 book, In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development, which brought the psychological silencing of adolescent girls to public awareness and has become a feminist classic. Her other books include Darkness Now Visible: Patriarchy’s Resurgence and Feminist Resistance and The Book of Pleasure.
Mark Greif is co-founder of the literary and intellectual journal n+1. He is the author of Against Everything and The Age of the Crisis of Man …
Mark Greif is co-founder of the literary and intellectual journal n+1. He is the author of Against Everything and The Age of the Crisis of Man. He currently teaches at Stanford University and is working on a book called How To Look At Porn.