Fall 2010

Figures of Ill Repute


Laure A. Katsaros (Section 01)
Timothy J. Van Compernolle (Section 02)


The French term demimonde means literally “half-world.”  Together with the equivalent in Japanese (karyûkai), it generally indicates an eroticized space or profession that is outside the pale of respectable society.  The quintessential figure is the female prostitute—whether the low-ranking sex worker or the high-class courtesan—but the term can also encompass the catamite, the bar hostess, the geisha, and the male prostitutes who cater to a female clientele.  Because of their ambiguous status, demimonde figures and their sexuality often become a vehicle through which writers, artists, and polemicists explore the effects of desire on the larger social order, critique contemporary social mores, project their fantasies about male-female relations, and seek idealized symbols of femininity and masculinity.This comparative course focuses on the demimonde cultures of France and Japan in an interdisciplinary exploration involving narrative fiction, film, historical scholarship, material culture, autobiography, art, law, theatrical works, and anthropology.  As an introductory and interdisciplinary course in liberal studies, we will use both pre-modern, modern, and contemporary sources to ask questions about representation, agency, lived experience, desire, morality, law, abjection, money, and social stratification.  This is a discussion-based course that is also designed to develop student competency in critical thinking and in writing.  Assignments include short responses and longer essays, with an emphasis on developing skills at crafting thesis/support essays.  It will be taught in sections, but we will come periodically together as a group for plenary sessions and lectures on particular cultural phenomena. The course requires no knowledge of Japanese or French.

Fall semester.  Professors Katsaros and Van Compernolle.

Cost: 60.00 ?


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2010