Joseph Baide for Professor Julia Evergreen Keefer
Syllabus for Independent Coursework
Research Topic Title:
Semiotic and Literary Analyses of Organic Phenomena
in Mediated Representations

This course will analyze organic phenomena such as sex and violence in a literary and semiotic manner through the study of media theory and literature.  Those representations will include, but will not be limited to, Anne Rice’s vampires from her Vampire Chronicles, and the various public personae of Madonna. Anne Rice’s fiction and Madonna’s personae explore themes of religion, beauty, narcissism, gender, and sexuality.  These mediated representations are visceral in their themes and predominantly revolve around the organic (sexuality and violence).


  1. To analyze the motivations behind the organic phenomena of sex and violence in the media
  2. To develop a unique theory about the role of organic phenomena in media and about the demand for it by the audience

Course Requirements:

Primary Source work will be read prior to the start of coursework.
Sept 17:
Sexual Personae by Camille Paglia
Sex by Madonna
The music videos of Madonna

The Art of Sexual Power
An analysis of sex as an organic phenomenon in media, for example Madonna as a powerful sexual being exploring highbrow concepts of gender, aesthetics and sexuality, within the context of lowbrow pop art.  This topic will explore the extent to which one can be sexual and powerful without sacrificing the climax.
- Paper 1
- Part 1 of Web folio
Sept 24:
Guilbert’s Madonna as Postmodern Myth
Fouz-Hernandez’s Madonna’s Drowned World

No, Really… Who IS That Girl?
Madonna considers herself a performance artist – a self-described appropriator of cultural references, highbrow art, and international religions. She takes on cultures and artistic representations and makes them palatable for a mass audience.  Her own image is one of an empowered feminist in charge of her career, her sexuality, but what does the quick-changing artist reveal of herself with every transformation?  Is there anything behind the mask?  Or does her narcissism expose emptiness?
- Paper 2
- Part 2 of Web folio
Oct 1:
Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray
Lasch’s The Culture of Narcissism

An analysis of narcissism and the contradiction of outer beauty and inner ugliness of spirit.  To what extent does narcissism and self-indulgence encourage madness and obsession? And to what extent does youth’s relationship with beauty and foolishness contradict maturity’s relationship with wisdom and with a decrepit physical appearance? An analysis of how the final portrait was devised as tool to horrify the reader.
- Paper 3
- Part 3 of Web folio

Oct 22:
Brown and Hoppenstand’s The Gothic World of Anne Rice
Smith’s Anne Rice: A Critical Companion
Badley’s Writing Horror and the Body
An analysis of Rice’s fantastical and gothic mythology that examines what is farce and what is horror.  The analysis will begin as a review of the genre that attempts to understand the tragic (the art of restraint and simplicity) and the horror (self-indulgent thrills).  Horror is renewed by the act of exposure to death making the audience indifferent and anaesthetized to it.  Does Rice practice horror or fantasy? What role does transcendence and religion play in the horror genre and in the mythology of Rice’s characters? Does the suffering and torture of the characters achieve the ultimate intimacy between them?
- Papers 4, 5, and 6

Oct 29:
The Complete Marquis de Sade
An analysis of the relationship between physical pain and emotional intimacy that will explore the themes of sadomasochistic torture as a means of achieving an experience of transcendent love.  Are love and pain mutually exclusive? Is love naturally self-indulgent or selfless?  What is considered “natural” sex and what is learned sexual behavior?
- Paper 7
- Part 7 of Web folio
Nov 5:
Ackerman’s A Natural History of the Senses
A semiotic analysis of naturalistic and organic human experiences of love, sex, and pain.
- Paper 8
- Part 8 of Web folio
Nov 12:
Dyens’ Metal and Flesh
In contrast to Ackerman, a semiotic analysis of the inorganic and artificial modern experiences of the physical.
- Paper 9
- Part 9 of Web folio
Nov 19:
Revisions to final paper
Nov 26:
Dec 3:
Final Web folio posted

Required Reading:
Primary Sources:
Rice, Anne. Interview with the Vampire. New York: Random House, 1976.
Rice, Anne. The Vampire Lestat. New York: Random House, 1985.
Rice, Anne. The Queen of the Damned. New York: Random House, 1997.
Madonna. Sex. New York: Warner Books, Inc. 1992.

Ackerman, Diane. A Natural History of the Senses. New York: Random House,      1990.

Badley, Linda. Writing Horror and the Body: the fiction of Stephen King, Clive         Barker, and Anne Rice. Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1996.

Browne, Ray B. and Gary Hoppenstand. The Gothic World of Anne Rice. Ohio:     Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1996.

Dyens, Ollivier.  Metal and Flesh: The Evolution of Man: Technology Takes Over.   Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2001.

Fouz-Hernández, Santiago and Freya Jarman-Ivens. Madonna's Drowned             Worlds: New Approaches to her Cultural Transformations, 1983-2003.            Vermont: Ashgate, 2004.

Gillete, Paul J. (Translated by). The Complete Marquis De Sade. California:           Holloway House Publishing Co.

Guilbert, Georges-Claude. Madonna as Postmodern Myth: How One Star's Self-   Construction Rewrites Sex, Gender, Hollywood, and the American Dream.          North Carolina: McFarland & Co., 2002.

Lasch, Christopher. The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in An Age of Diminishing    Expectations. New York: Norton & Company, 1979.

Paglia, Camille. Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily         Dickinson. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990.

Smith, Jennifer. Anne Rice: A Critical Companion. Connecticut: Greenwood           Press, 1996.

Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. New York: Random House, 1992.