Sexual Selection and Queer Beauty

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Tuesday 22 May 2018, 5.30PM

Speaker: Professor Whitney Davis

The lecture deals with the tension between an orthodox theory of the sexual selection of ornament, the "sense of beauty," and the "art-sense" in the struggle for successful mating within the (human) species, on the one hand, and, on the other, the role of non-procreatively oriented sexualities in the generation of attractions and forms of beauty. In Darwin's own day this tension was not resolved. Subsequent reconciliations have been proposed, but little consensus has been achieved. The paper reconstructs an argument (broadly Kantian) in which both cross-sex and same-sex attractions are necessary for the best-possible outcomes in the selection of favorable traits and it notices ways in which this argument has been prefigured in various homoeroticist writings in the later nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Location: Bowland Auditorium, Berrick Saul building