Theory course Sado-Masochism: Economies of Desire and Recognition


Tuesdays, 6:30-9:30pm

Goethe-Institut New York

30 Irving Place
New York, NY 10003

From Hegel to Deleuze, many political thinkers have employed the language of dominance and submission within the tradition of Western political thought. How does the language of Sado-masochism shape the way we think about desire and political recognition?

This course will look at how the erotic language of S&M is embedded in the theoretical frameworks we use to approach questions of knowledge, pleasure, and power. Beginning with Hegel’s famous master-slave dialectic, we will explore how the frameworks of S&M shape approaches to questions of recognition, desire, subject and object. Among other questions, we will ask: Can we read sadism apart from masochism in order to rethink political forms of recognition? Is desire productive? How does the act of desire shape our engagement with the other? How do power relationships inform our discussions of political recognition? And how do the narratives of S&M shape the way we think the subject/object relationship within critical theory?

In addition to reading Hegel’s “Lordship and Bondsman” and Bataille’s engagement of Hegel in “Madam Edwarda” and Story of the Eye, we will look at the way Sado-masochism frames our discussion of knowledge and power in works by Lacan, the Marquis de Sade, Adorno, and Horkheimer. In the second half of the course, we will consider how the merger of Sado-masochism changes the way we think about liberal subjectivity in readings from Freud, Brown, Masoch, and Deleuze. We will conclude the course with readings from Sontag and Fromm in order to consider the role of fetishism in fascist aesthetics.

Instructor: Samantha Hill

Samantha Hill received her doctorate in Political Science from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2014. She is currently a Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow at the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and The Humanities at Bard College. Her research and teaching interests include critical theory, the Frankfurt School, aesthetic theory, poetic thinking, and German literature.