The Shock of Learning

Literary Pornography in the Classroom



Pornography, shock, teaching, Jane DeLynn


Using as a case study the experience of teaching Jane DeLynn’s Leash (2002), a “pornosophical” novel about a sadomasochistic lesbian relationship, I argue in this essay for the pedagogical value of shock. I argue that shocking works of pornography can unsettle not only students' comfortable understandings of sexuality, but also comfortable assumptions that we as teachers and critics of literature might have about our own practice. Additionally, I use my experience of teaching Leash to reflect on the teaching of pornography within the context of literary studies and on the place of written pornography in the growing academic field of pornography studies.

Author Biography

Guy Davidson, University of Wollongong

Guy Davidson is an associate professor in the English Literatures Program at the University of Wollongong, Australia. He has published widely on the intersections of American literature, sexuality, and consumer capitalism. He is the author of Categorically Famous: Literary Celebrity and Sexual Liberation in 1960s America (Stanford University Press, 2019), which won the Australian Universities Heads of English Prize for Literary Scholarship in 2019, and Queer Commodities: Contemporary US Fiction, Consumer Capitalism, and Gay and Lesbian Subcultures (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). He is also the co-editor, with Monique Rooney, of Queer Objects (Routledge, 2019), and, with Nicola Evans, of Literary Careers in the Modern Era (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).