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Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the "Frenzy of the Visible"

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  204 ratings  ·  18 reviews
In this now-classic study, Linda Williams moves beyond the impasse of the anti-porn/anti-censorship debate to analyze what hard-core film pornography is and does—as a genre with a history, as a specific cinematic form, and as part of contemporary discourse on sexuality. For the 1999 edition, Williams has written a new preface and a new epilogue, "On/scenities," illustrated ...more
Paperback, Expanded Edition, 398 pages
Published April 27th 1999 by University of California Press (first published 1989)
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Aug 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: porn
I think it's pretty ridiculous to read some of the reviews regarding this book. "It's dry" or "It's dated" Did it not occur to those readers that they are reading an academic film theory book? Or that at the time of publishing it was a pioneering study? Williams captivated me with her comparisons of porn to musicals and S&M to the final girl in horror films. I laughed out loud when she described what it must have been like for the Greek gods, Zeus and Hera, to watch porn together. Although I hav ...more
Jun 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Heather
Shelves: film-studies
Linda Williams is one of the best academic writers I have come across. She is clear and concise, funny, and entertaining. I loved this book. It's very explicit, so it's obviously not for everyone, but any feminist (both pro- and anti-pornography) should check this one out.
Dec 11, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: dirty-minded intellectuals
I remember reading this book back in grad school when it was the go-to giggle for bookworms who found it provocative to speak of Foucault and Lovelace in the same sentence. It's actually a worthwhile read for those looking for a "grammar" of pornography. Since the early 90s, "adult entertainment" has become an accepted medium of study, with some schools even offering courses in its analysis---most of them heaily indebted to this study. If anything, the cultural pleasures that "hardcore" supposed ...more
Jason Coffman
Oct 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
Fascinating history and study of hardcore pornographic film, its functions and development. Williams traces the development of hardcore from early photography and stags to the VHS era. My only real complaint is that the book is now seriously out of date-- as relevant as its observations are to the state of pornography in the 1980s, it's left to the reader to extrapolate how things have changed in the last 20 years or more. But that's probably an entire book itself!
Sep 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is one of the first serious scholarly examinations of pornography. Williams use a formalistic process to examine and explain how porn films function within the larger cultural and political discourse. She also examines how viewing porn and the gaze may be understood as something that does not have to be gender specific.
Sep 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Those who are not easily offended
Recommended to Libby by: Jesse!
I grew up during a time when debate on pornography consisted of dire accusations that mainstream pornography was harmful to everybody- a view that was commonly espoused, despite a near complete lack of evidence supporting it. Linda Williams's book is a refreshingly frank and reasoned analysis of cinematic hard-core pornography- its history, censorship, how it was meant to be viewed, and how women viewing/making it has changed it.
But it's not all feminism and games- there's also some Freud-baiti
Marek Pawlowski
Feb 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ta książka wręcz zachwyca erudycją jeśli chodzi o historię oraz znaczenie pornografii (głównie heteroseksualnej). Jest ona także wzorcowym przykładem krytyki dość głupkowatego stwierdzenia, że ”Pornografia jest teorią, gwałt praktyką” wyznawanego przez niektóre antypornograficzne nurty feminizmu (Dworkin, MacKinnon), które także są tutaj omawiane. Momentami trochę za dużo Freudowskiej symboliki czy też wchodzenia w dość pokrętne, żeby nie powiedzieć, dziwaczne rozumowania. Całość jednakże jest p ...more
some of this has become REALLY dated, and some of this is REALLY psychoanalytic which just makes me want to throw the book at a wall (mostly the psychoanalysis) but i think it's a really important thing ~*~historically~*~ to look at how definitions/meanings/the production of pornography has evolved and how attempts to make "visible" pleasure is one of the challenges to this? this book may be best served excerpted in a film studies course although there is definately some reward to reading the wh ...more
Jan 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An impressive weaving together of feminist, Marxist and psychoanalytic theory to explore both the development and meaning of pornography-on-film that despite being written before the seeming normalisation of pornography via the internet and contemporary commercialisations of the objectification of women retains intense analytical power. Williams manages to make sense of the complexities of pornography without falling into the twin traps of sensationalist opposition or cynical resignation to its ...more
Jan 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-non_fiction
Super good, but a bit dry at times. Minus one star for being outdated as well - that's always a hit to media studies texts.

Beyond that, it's still a quick read and Williams has occasional moments of brilliance with the language - a very good sign of readability in non-fiction.

May 21, 2010 rated it liked it
smart and stimulating though at times a bit dry. if you like this read laura kipnis' essay on "making fat visible." (i hope i didn't massacre the title!)
Nov 19, 2009 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the "Frenzy of the Visible" by Linda Williams (1991)
David Michael
Aug 31, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Those who like to look
The Bible of non-reactionary/conservative Feminist Studies of Pornography. An in-depth reading of visual pleasure and how it works.
Aug 25, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading this on Google Books at work - hubba hubba!
Jul 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
I didn't read the whole book, just a few chapters for a class last year.
CL Chu
Mar 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A pretty comprehensive work on the 'first-hundred' year of hardcore pornography after motion picture - what is now needed, after 30 years of its initial publication, may be another sophisticated analysis of Internet porn culture, industry, and political economy. This book is nonetheless still relevant today, especially its approach to film and gender studies.
Frances Wilde
Apr 17, 2018 rated it liked it
I love Linda Williams. This was kind of outdated, but at the same time, much needed still, to distinguish between anti-graphics and anti-censorship. She writes so concisely and produces a balanced argument. Love Chapter 7.
Jan 07, 2020 rated it liked it
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Linda Williams teaches courses on popular moving-image genres (pornography, melodrama, and “body genres” of all sorts). She has recently taught courses on Oscar Micheaux and Spike Lee, Luis Bunuel, David Lynch and Pedro Almodovar, melodrama, film the

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