The topic of sexuality in art history can be approached in a variety of ways but perhaps the most valuable one in terms of a foundational topic for a survey art history lecture is the convention of female nudity in art. Tracing this convention through the history of art will enable you to cover issues of sexuality, gender, and power with your class. Additionally, you can spend time looking at the ways in which modern and contemporary artists have responded to the trope of female nudity in order to break with past conventions, and the ways in which feminist and queer artists and artists of color have developed new approaches to this tradition from a position of marginality. The first part of the lecture will review the tradition of female nude in western art history, and introduce concepts of objectification and the gaze. Students will become familiar with the influential scholarship of John Berger, Laura Mulvey, and bell hooks to gain skills for analyzing the gender and racialized constructions of sexuality.
In feminist theorythe male gaze is the act of depicting women and the world, in the visual arts  and in literature from a masculine, heterosexual perspective that presents and represents women as sexual objects for the pleasure of the male viewer. The film critic Laura Mulvey coined the term male gazewhich is conceptually contrasted with and opposed by the female gaze. The existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre introduced the concept of le regardthe gazein Being and Nothingnesswherein the act of gazing at another human being creates a subjective power difference, which is felt by the gazer and by the gazed, because the person being gazed at is perceived as an object, not as a human being. In a narrative film, the visual perspective of the male gaze is the sight-line of the camera as the spectator's perspective — that of a heterosexual man whose sight lingers upon the curves of a woman's body. Such visualizations establish the roles of dominant-male and dominated-female, by representing the female as a passive object for the male gaze of the active viewer.
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