“Guilty Pleasures and Global Appetites”

Course Description: In February 2013, Shonda Rhimes, the creator of several wildly successful television shows, including “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal,” and “Private Practice,” lashed out against critics for labeling her show a favorite “guilty pleasure.” For Rhimes, “[i]t’s so annoying. It’s like saying the show is a piece of crap but I can’t stop watching it. To me, that’s what a guilty pleasure is. “The Real Housewives” is a guilty pleasure. To me, it’s an insulting thing to say. I would never say that about someone’s show. I think it’s a very insulting thing to say about someone’s show. Calling a show a “guilty pleasure” is like saying ‘I’m embarrassed to say I watch it but I can’t stop.’ That’s not a compliment.”

What is a “guilty pleasure?” What makes a pleasure unsafe enough to make us feel “guilty,” but safe enough to keep doing? In this course, we’ll look at several texts—novels, articles, magazines, and films that discuss “guilty pleasures.” We will also look at texts—magazines, novels, articles, etc. that have been labeled as “guilty pleasures.” We will think about how engaging in analysis of “guilty pleasures” connects to questions of secrecy, spectacle, and taboos. We will also think about how the concepts of guilt and pleasure” raise questions about “high” versus “low” or “popular” culture, and how guilty pleasures may connect to ideas of race, class, and gender.

We will read writings in a number of different genres, and we’ll watch some films as well. Students will be asked to think critically about how the themes of the course play out differently in different genres and also in a diverse range of cultural contexts. Finally, we will think about how the concept of “guilty pleasures” plays out in a global arena as appetite and desire negotiate an international terrain of aesthetic, cultural, and consumeristic production.

This class will also engage students in close readings, cultural commentary, discussion, and writing practices.

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