Impressions of my student’s final art exhibit

All Tied Up. Unraveling Love Sex and Desire. On December 12th 2019, at Emory’s Visual Arts Gallery. An exhibit curated by my students, in which all 13 of them showcase the art and critical artist statements, they’ve worked on all through the Fall 2019 semester.

photography by Nyle Rado

video by Haley Grissett

Course Description

This course is funded by a Mellon Interventions Project Public Scholarship Teaching Fellowships and a Emory Center for Faculty Development and Excellence classroom mini-grant.

Love, sex and desire. Three words that describe strong intimacies between people. But what do these words actually mean? How do they relate to one another? Do they indicate separate phenomena? Or are their delineations not that clear? And could it be possible that their demarcations are used to benefit and award some, and subordinate and marginalize others? Historically philosophers, sexologists and psychoanalysts have tried to answer what love, sex, and desire are.  Yet a variety of critical thinkers in fields like feminist theory, queer theory, post-colonial theory, critical black studies, affect theory and disability studies have stepped up to critique these dominant views and carve out a space for unheard voices and desires.

 In this course we will take a closer look at the history of love, sex and desire, and more specifically their mutual relations. Through carefully selected readings, students will learn to  pay attention to the socially constructed nature of ideologies and binaries that govern dominant conceptions of love-sex-desire. Some dyads the course will focus on are: love/desire; Madonna/whore; healthy/perverse; thanatos/eros; genital/non-genital; infantile/adult; sexual/asexual; love/hate; subjectification/de-subjectification; vanilla/kink; civilized/uncivilized. Students will discover the racist, sexist and/or misogynist dimensions of these binaries and learn the importance of  complicating binaries into a more fluid approach.

A selection of questions that this course will address are: How does power work on how love, sex and desire have been conceived of historically, politically, and theoretically? What binaries govern theories of love, sex, and/or desire? What is the function of these binaries? Who do they serve, who do they subordinate? What are some methods that are used to complicated and subvert these splits?  

To tackle these questions students will build a critical tool-kit that allows them to look at the political dimensions of these binaries, and develop a sensitivity for their sexual, gendered and racial implications. Besides traditionally written articles and books, students will also be presented with the critical potential of both public scholarship (like podcasts, blogs, self-help books and TED-talks) and subversive art (ranging from poetry to music, photography and performance art). The variety of materials will provide students with their own subversive means to tackle a love-sex-desire related binary in their own alternative form project. Students will work all semester to create an art piece, in their medium of choice, accompanied by a critical theory inspired art statement. Subsequently, students and instructor will work together to create a public art exhibition, in which students have the chance to present and discuss their final projects with a general audience.

Course Goals

 After completing this course successfully, students will be able to: 

  • Understand key psychoanalytic, feminist, philosophic and queer debates regarding love, sex and desire
  • Recognize and critically engage with the vast variety of work that is out there, which deals with questions regarding love, sex, desire but also race, disability and power
  • Develop the critical toolsets to both recognize and subvert misogynist, racist, ableist and sexist ideologies concerning love, sex and desire
  • Summarize and critically analyze difficult texts in the field of WGSS and psychoanalysis
  • Write an artist statement
  • Create an intellectually stimulating classroom and class discussion
  • Formulate cogent feedback to your peer’s questions and work
  • Acquire the analytical and critical tools and thinking skills to see and engage with the world and your everyday life differently
  • Articulate their own reading of the world, through intellectual, critical, creative, explanatory and/or artistic means
  • take an informed stance on current love, sex, desire related debates
  • Collaborate with others to create a public art exhibition
  • Translate Sex, Love and Desire related topics to a general audience

Course Format and Brief Overview of Requirements

This course is invested in teaching seminal texts on love, sex and desire in tandem with non-traditional scholarship in the form of public scholarship (podcasts, TED-talks and self-help books) and a variety of artistic content (poetry, music videos, and performance art). Monday and Wednesday classes will be dedicated to fundamental theoretical texts in the field of WGSS, philosophy and psychoanalysis that deal with love-sex-desire. During Friday classes, students will apply the gathered knowledge to the assigned non-traditional scholarship. For examples, students will analyze how music videos problematize the assumption that BDSM is non-loving sex; or they discuss with local Atlanta artists how contemporary dance, documentary film, burlesque and/or slam poetry subvert traditional and problematic ideas on sex, love and desire.

This emphasis on non-traditional scholarship is carried further into the assignments. Throughout the semester students will fulfill four assignments in which they are asked to apply their newly acquired theoretical lens to contemporary issues: (1) a pop-time discussion; (2) a reflection on a current local art exhibition; (3) an alternative form project and (4) a final project + public exhibition.

Registrar’s Qualitative Course Evaluations. All criteria evaluated by students anonymously

Optional comments on the course:

• I would wholeheartedly recommend this course! It was a very important course for me because it allowed me to gain access to theory surrounding some of the ways I feel and things that I experience. This class also allowed me to open my imagination. I think everyone should feel the creative freedom combined with the power of theory that this class provided.

• This course is the most interesting course I have ever taking at Emory. The course provided a space for theory to be manifested into every day life. The theories we were exposed to challenged and made us think critically about our views.

• This course is incredibly important and has taught me theories that have informed all of my courses as well as my outlook on life. It subverts not only phallocentric ideologies, but also phallocentric forms of research and education, embracing art as a valid medium to express professional research.

• Loved the course. It was tranformational for those who have never been exposed to the material before.

• This class was so much fun, and I learned so much. It was very well organized and introduced me to a lot of theory that really made me think! I was able to apply it to art which was so cool. I loved the class.

• Very different from other courses taken even within same major. Very innovative course!

• This was my favorite course! I loved applying our theories and readings to art and it was an amazing experience creating our own art gallery.

Optional comments on the instructor

• The teacher was very enthusiastic and was very determined to make sure that all of the students understand the topics in class I very much appreciate her

• Stephanie was super approachable and helpful with everything during the course. She provided helpful and critical feedback, and is extremely knowledgable within her field. She made me feel like what I am doing matters!

• The best professor I have ever had!!

• Stephanie was so nice and so available outside of class. She really cares about her students and the material.

• Will make an INCREDIBLE professor or researcher!

Please write a brief evaluation of the graduate teaching associate who taught your course. You might want to comment on the class discussions, lectures, or any other contribution to the class made by the graduate teaching associate.

• Very inspiring and nice professor. She brings in diverse materials and subjects to the course and the topics are mostly very valuable to further explore.

• My teacher was very dedicated to this class. It was very obvious that there was a great deal of effort put into the readings she assigned and the assignments we were given as well as the field trips we took. This class was very interesting and quite different from classes I have taken so far and I very much enjoyed my time.

• Stephanie created very engaging and important lectures. The class was thought provoking, creative, and overall an amazing opportunity to generate art. Stephanie also created many opportunities for us to gain extra recourses and connections with the greater ATL community. I feel so lucky to have been in her class, what a brilliant and forward-thinking scholar!

• One of the best professors I have had in my time at Emory. She made sure the course was organized for the entire semester, the syllabus was extremely detailed and provided guidance for students. She had accessible office hours and was willing to meet if the hours did not fit the student’s schedules. The way she presented the theory we were learning in class was fantastic! She would make sure that we were able to understand it when the theory was too dense and made sure students felt comfortable asking questions. She fostered a space for academic thought and involvement that made us flourish as critical thinkers.

• Stephanie Koziej is an excellent teacher. She was able to integrate theory, practice, and visual/artistic representations of the two, to provide a deep understanding of the ways in which love, sex, and desire function today. Furthermore, she went the extra mile by giving our class the opportunity to exhibit our work in a gallery, and from this we learned skills that we would rarely have learned in any other WGS course. I highly recommend her as a teacher.

• Such a great professor and spends time genuinely wanting us to understand the material as well as always allowing us to express ourselves. love the implementation of art into this class as a medium for learning theory!!

• Stephanie was great at leading class discussions and helping us understand this at times heavy material. Her syllabus was so thoughtfully planned and really immersed us in art and theory, which helped so much with our project. She also gave so many out of class experiences, like going to a gallery and screening. She’s awesome and so was her class.

• Stephanie is really great at leading discussion. She knows when to let the discussion meander and when to bring it back to the task at hand, and her own openness and enthusiasm shows students by example that they can be comfortable discussing some traditionally uncomfortable subject matter freely in class. With regard to assignments and projects, Stephanie seemed perpetually dissatisfied with students’ work, which could be frustrating.

• Stephanie was clearly knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the course’s subject matter. The course format was well thought out, allowing us to engage both theory and art. Class discussions were well facilitated with a good use of small-group peer discussions before sharing ideas as a class.

• I think Stephanie did a great job of explaining the material and making sure we all understood it. I think everyone in the class loved it and learned a lot that they can easily apply to their lives. I find my friend who also took the class and I discussing the material with our other friends as well

• class was organized very well and readings were all challenging but professor kept the reading to what was important for understanding and discussion. Expectations were clear and everyone is clear about the final project/exhibition. Overall, graduate professor was 10/10.

• Professor Koziej was excellent at explaining complex psychoanalysis, feminist, and queer theories from our readings during class. Also, she was good at facilitating engaging class discussions and was always available during office hours to help with our assignments. I loved how

Registrar’s Quantitative Course Evaluations. All criteria evaluated by students anonymously