Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools

Navigation

Images of Bliss

Ejaculation, Masculinity, Meaning

2007
Author:

Murat Aydemir

Images of Bliss

From Holbein to hard-core porn, a critical exploration of male orgasm in Western culture

In Images of Bliss, Murat Aydemir undertakes an original and extensive analysis of images of male orgasm and semen. In a series of detailed case studies including Andres Serrano’s use of bodily fluids in his art; paintings by Holbein and Leonardo; Proust’s In Search of Lost Time; hard-core pornography and key texts from the poststructuralist canon, Aydemir traces the complex and often contradictory possibilities for imagination, description, and cognition that both the idea and the reality of semen make available.

Through the strange case of male orgasm, Murat Aydemir takes us on a breathtaking tour of Proust, Holbein, Serrano, Lacan, and Aristotle. In lucid, witty prose he delves deep into the hang-ups in art, literature, and theory, conducting a savvy critique without ever becoming moralistic. Sure, his topic may suggest this, but how often is profound academic thinking fun? In this book it is.

Mieke Bal, author of Quoting Caravaggio: Contemporary Art, Preposterous History

Aristotle believed semen to be the purest of all bodily secretions, a vehicle for the spirit or psyche that gives form to substance. For Proust’s narrator in Swann’s Way, waking to find he has experienced a nocturnal emission, it is the product of “some misplacing of my thigh.” The heavy metal band Metallica used it to adorn an album cover. Beyond its biological function, semen has been applied with surprising frequency to metaphorical and narratological purposes.

In Images of Bliss, Murat Aydemir undertakes an original and extensive analysis of images of male orgasm and semen. In a series of detailed case studies—Aristotle’s On the Generation of Animals; Andres Serrano’s use of bodily fluids in his art; paintings by Holbein and Leonardo; Proust’s In Search of Lost Time; hard-core pornography (both straight and gay); and key texts from the poststructuralist canon, including Lacan on the phallus, Bataille on expenditure, Barthes on bliss, and Derrida on dissemination—Aydemir traces the complex and often contradictory possibilities for imagination, description, and cognition that both the idea and the reality of semen make available. In particular, he foregrounds the significance of male ejaculation for masculine subjectivity. More often than not, Aydemir argues, the event or object of ejaculation emerges as the instance through which identity, meaning, and gender are not so much affirmed as they are relentlessly and productively questioned, complicated, and displaced.

Combining close readings of diverse works with subtle theoretical elaboration and a keen eye for the cultural ideals and anxieties attached to sexuality, Images of Bliss offers a convincing and long overdue critical exploration of ejaculation in Western culture.

Images of Bliss

Murat Aydemir is assistant professor of comparative literature at the University of Amsterdam.

Images of Bliss

Through the strange case of male orgasm, Murat Aydemir takes us on a breathtaking tour of Proust, Holbein, Serrano, Lacan, and Aristotle. In lucid, witty prose he delves deep into the hang-ups in art, literature, and theory, conducting a savvy critique without ever becoming moralistic. Sure, his topic may suggest this, but how often is profound academic thinking fun? In this book it is.

Mieke Bal, author of Quoting Caravaggio: Contemporary Art, Preposterous History

For both gay and straight porn, the ‘money shot,’ male ejaculation, supposedly provides incontrovertible evidence that the viewer is being shown ‘real sex’ and that the male performer is experiencing ‘real pleasure.’ In Images of Bliss, Aydemir brilliantly demonstrates that ejaculation has signified a much broader, more complex, often troubling set of meanings.

Michael Moon, Emory University

Images of Bliss is marked by a wry sense of humor and a commitment to cultural dissection of literary and artistic works.

Bitch Magazine

This book has obviously been constructed with great care, devotion, and seriousness of purpose.

Chronicle of Higher Education

There’s something sexy, pleasurable, and original in this dense, philosophical, clearly learned study of male orgasm. As a reference or research book, Images of Bliss will serve the reader well. Smart and well researched.

Virginia Quarterly Review

Images of Bliss is lucid and engaging in its analysis of cultural artifacts, whether Proust or pornography. There is much to be gleaned from this intriguing book from which much pleasure, or jouissance, can be obtained.

Journal of Men, Masculinities, and Spirituality

Images of Bliss is appealing to gender studies scholars and cultural studies enthusiasts on several counts.

M/C Reviews

A theoretically ambitious study.

South Atlantic Review

Interestingly written, with a new surprise awaiting in every chapter.

Sexuality & Culture