Linda Williams

Professor Emerita

Film & Media Studies

PhD (Film Studies), University of Colorado

Image of Linda Williams


7329 Dwinelle Hall

Tuesday and Thursday, 3:30 - 4:30



Research Interests

Film history and genre
Melodrama and pornography
Feminist theory
Visual culture

Linda Williams teaches courses on popular moving-image genres (pornography, melodrama, and “body genres” of all sorts). She has also taught courses on Oscar Micheaux and Spike Lee, Luis Bunuel and Pedro Almodovar, melodrama, film theory, selected “sex genres,” and The Wire. Her books include a psychoanalytic study of Surrealist cinema, Figures of Desire (1981), a co-edited volume of feminist film criticism (Re-vision, 1984), an edited volume on film spectatorship, Viewing Positions (1993) and Reinventing Film Studies (co-edited with Christine Gledhill, 2000). In 1989 she published a study of pornographic film entitled Hard Core: Power, Pleasure and the Frenzy of the Visible (second edition 1999). This study of moving-image pornography looks seriously at the history and form of an enormously popular genre. In 1999 Williams received a Guggenheim Fellowship for research on her 2001 Playing the Race Card: Melodramas of Black and White, from Uncle Tom to O.J. Simpson (2001, Princeton)–an analysis of racial melodrama spanning the 19th and 20th centuries of American culture. She has also edited a collection of essays on pornography, Porn Studies, featuring work by many U.C. Berkeley graduate students (Duke, 2004). Her most recent book is Screening Sex (Duke, 2008), a history of the revelation and concealment of sex at the movies. She received Berkeley’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 2004 and in 2011 was appointed Faculty Research Lecturer. She is currently researching a book on HBO’s The Wire.



“When the Woman Looks.” ReVision: Essays in Feminist Film Criticism. Eds. Doane, Mellencamp and Williams. American Film Institute Monograph Series,1983. (pp. 83-99)
German translation in Frauen und Film 7, 1990
Reprinted in: Film Theory and Criticism. Eds., Marshall Cohen, Gerald Mast, Leo Braudy. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992; The Dread of Difference: Gender and the Horror Film. Ed., Barry Keith Grant. Austin Texas, University of Texas Press, 1996

“Feminist Film Theory, the Female Spectator and Mildred Pierce.” Cinematic Pleasure and the Female Spectator. Ed. Deidre Pribram. London: Verso, 1988

“A Jury of Their Peers: Marlene Gorris’ A Question of Silence.” In Postmodernism and its Discontents. Ed. E. Ann Kaplan. London: Verso, 1988

“Fetishism and Hard Core: Marx, Freud and the Money Shot.” In For Adult Users Only: The Dilemma of Violent Pornography. Eds. Susan Gubar and Joan Hoff. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989

“Pornographies On/Scene, or ‘Diff’rent Strokes for Diff’rent Folks.'” In Sex Exposed: Sexuality and the Pornography Debate. Eds. Lynne 
Segal and Mary McIntosh. London: Virago, 1992

“Second Thoughts on Hard Core: American Obscenity Law and the Scapegoating of Deviance.” In Dirty Looks: Women, Pornography, Power. Eds. Pam Church Gibson and Roma Gibson. British Film Institute, 1993 (pp. 46-61)

“A Provoking Agent: The Pornography and Performance Art of Annie Sprinkle.” In Dirty Looks: Women, Pornography, Power. Eds. Pam Church Gibson and Roma Gibson. 1993 (pp. 46-61)

“Corporealized Observers: Visual Pornography and the ‘Carnal Density of Vision.'” In Patrice Petro, ed., Fugitive Images: From Photography to Video. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1995
Translated into German as: “Die visuelle und korperliche Lust der Pornographie in Bewegten Bildern:
Ein kurzer historischer Uberblick.” Eds. Jorg Huber, Alois Martin Muller. Stroemfeld/Roter Stern.
Museum fur Gestaltung Zurich, 1996
Translated again as: “Pornografische Bilder und die ‘Korperliche Dichte des Sehens.’” In Privileg Blick:
Kritick der visuellen Kultur.
Ed. Christian Kravagna. Berlin: Edition ID

“Melodrama Revised.” In Refiguring American Film Genres: History and Theory. Ed.Nick Browne. University of California Press, 1998

“The Ethics of Documentary Intervention: Dennis O’Rourke’s The Good Woman of Bangkok.” In The Good Woman of Bangkok. Eds, Chris Berry, Laleen Jayamanne:: Sydney, 1997
Reprinted in The Visible Evidence Collection. eds. Jane Gaines and Michael Renov. University of Minnesota Press, 1999

“Discipline and Distraction: “The Care and Handling of Psycho.” In “Culture” and the Problem of the Disciplines. Ed. John Carlos Rowe. Columbia University Press, 1998
Reprinted as “Discipline and Fun: Psycho and Postmodern Cinema.” In Re-inventing Film Studies. Eds. Christine Gledhill and Linda Williams. London: Edward Arnold; New York: Oxford University Press. 2000

“Skin Flicks on the Racial Border: Pornography, Exploitation and Interracial Lust.” Porn Studies. Ed.,Linda Williams. Durham: Duke University Press, 2004 (pp. 271-308)


“Edenic Nostalgia and the Play of Mirrors in Hopscotch and One Hundred Years of Solitude. 1977. The Latin American Literary Review, 53-68

“Type and Stereotype: Chicano Images in Film.” 1980. Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 4, 63-73
Reprinted in Chicano Images in Film: Research, Reviews and Resources. 1985. Ed. Gary D. Keller. Binghamton, New York: Bilingual Review Press

“Film Madness: The Uncanny Return of the Repressed in Polanski’s The Tenant. 1981. Cinema Journal: 20, 63-73

“Film Body: An Implantation of Perversions.” CineTracts. 12 (Winter 1981), 19-34. Reprinted in Narrative, Apparatus, Ideology: A Film Theory Reader. Ed. Philip Rosen. New York: Columbia University Press, 1986

“The Right of ReVision: Michelle Citron’s Daughter Rite.” With B. Ruby Rich. Film Quarterly 35 (Fall 1981), 17-22
Reprinted in Movies and Methods Vol. II. Ed. Bill Nichols. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985

“‘Something Else Besides a Mother’: Stella Dallas and the Maternal Melodrama.” Cinema Journal 24 (Fall 1984) 227
Reprinted in: Home is Where the Heart Is: Studies in Melodrama and the Woman’s Film. Ed. Christine Gledhill. London: British Film Institute, 1987, 299-325; Issues in Feminist Film Criticism. Ed. Patricia Erens. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990; Imitations of Life: A Reader on Film and Television Melodrama. Ed. Marcia Landy. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1991; Film Theory and Criticism. Eds. Marshall Cohen and Leo Braudy. Oxford University Press, 1999

“Fetishism and Hard Core: Marx, Freud and the ‘Money Shot.’“ Quarterly Review of Film and Video. Vol.2:2 (1989): 23-42
Reprinted in For Adult Users Only: The Dilemma of Violent Pornography. Eds. Susan Gubar and Joan Hoff-Wilson. Bloomington Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1989

“Power, Pleasure and Perversion: Sadomasochistic Film Pornography.” Representations 27 (Summer 1989) 37-65

“Film Bodies: Gender, Genre, and Excess.” Film Quarterly Vol. 44:4 (Summer 1991): 2-13
Reprinted in: Film Genre Reader. Ed. Barry Keith Grant. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1995; Film Theory and Criticism. Eds. Mast, Cohen and Braudy. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998; Oxford Guide to Film Studies. Oxford University Press, 1998
Translated to German: “Filmkorper: Geschlecht un Genre,” translated by Ewa Hess, in Feminismus und Medien. Ed.G.J. Lischka (Bern: Benteli Verlag, 1991, 249-278

“Mirrors without Memories: Truth, History and the New Documentary.” Film Quarterly 46:3 (Spring 1993) 9-21
Reprinted in: Film Quarterly: Forty Years, a Selection. Ed. Brian Henderson and Ann Martin. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999; Documenting the Documentary. Ed. Barry Keith Grant and Jeannette Sloniowski. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1998.
Translated to German: “Spiegel ohne Gedachnis: Wahrheit, Geschichte und der neue
Dokumentarfilm.” In Vor der Information Nr 1/2, 1994
Retranslated to German in Die Gegenwart der Vergangenheit: Dokumentarfilm, Fernsehen und Geschichte. Edited by Eva Hohenberger, Judith Keilbah. Berlin: Verlag Vorwerk, 2003

“The Ethics of Documentary Intervention: Dennis O’Rourke’s The Good Woman of Bangkok.” In The Filmmaker and the Prostitute: Dennis O’Rourke’s The Good Woman of Bangkok. Chris Berry, Annette Hamilton, Laleen Jayamanee, eds. Power Institute of Fine Arts, Syndney 1997. 79-90
Reprinted in Collecting Visible Evidence. Jane M. Gaines and Michael Renov, eds. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999. 176-189

“Showgirls and Sex Acts.” Contribution to Round Table on Showgirls. Film Quarterly 56:3 (Spring 2003): 32-

“Melancholy Melodrama: Almodovarian Grief and Lost Homosexual Attachments.” In Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies Vol. 5 no.3 (October 2004): 273-286.
Translated in Almodóvar: el cine como pasíon. Fran Zurián, Carmen Vazquez Verela eds. Ediciones de la Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, Cuenca, 2005.
Reprinted and expanded in All About Almodóvar. Despina Kakoudaki and Brad Epps eds. Forthcoming University of Minnesota Press, 2007

“‘White Slavery’ or the Ethnography of ‘Sexworkers’: Women in Stag Films at the Kinsey Archive.” The Moving Image (Fall 2005) 

“Of Kisses and Ellipses: the Long Adolescence of American Film.” Critical Inquiry Vol. 32 No.2 (Winter 2006): 288-340

“Cluster Fuck: The Forcible Frame in Errol Morris’ Standard Operating Procedure.” Camera Obscura 73 (2010): 29-68