On Pleasure, January 28 2009

Feeling and Thinking: Pleasure and the Brain
Sarah Johnson (Neuroscience)

This talk will offer a behavioural neuroscientist’s perspective on the biological purpose and process of pleasure. First, a description of the basic brain circuit that responds to rewarding events will explain how exactly we “feel” what we feel when we feel good. Then, a brief contemplation of the human cortex will reveal several ways in which what we think can dramatically change the pleasure (or pain) that we feel.

The Joy of Sex: Greek and Roman Erotic Handbooks
Cillian O’Hogan (Classics)

This talk will give a brief introduction to a little-known genre of ancient literature, the erotic handbook. I will talk in some detail about the most famous example of this genre, Ovid’s Ars Amatoria, as well as discussing some other texts that survive in fragmentary form, paying particular attention to how sexual pleasure is treated in the works.

Conceiving of Delicious Revolution: Contemporary Notions of Food and Pleasure
Dylan Gordon (Anthropology)

To some, caring about the pleasures of one’s eating seems frivolous, gluttonous or plain unhealthy; to others, such pleasures are important and valuable parts of existence. Through contemporary advertisements for food and drink, I elaborate these attitudes and the symbolic heritage they recapitulate, then reflect upon contemporary shifts in the valuation of everyday pleasures.