What are we saying when we claim the book we are reading is a "guilty pleasure"? Why do we assume we should feel ashamed for our choice of literature? Are we presuming that all literature can be qualitatively measured? Why should we, even with a tongue-in-cheek intent, associate reading with guilt of any kind? It can be argued that when applied to food there can be at least metrics for what define "good" and "bad" (even if it amounts to the same thing: unnecessary and self-inflicted shame). Who are we assuming judges us for books that we think we should not be reading?
Actually a really interesting topic that spans literature and psychology. It would be interesting to also look at the division of categories - women vs men, different age groups, cultural divisions (for instance reading 'The Satanic Verses' in India is a very different 'guilty pleasure' to reading a Mills & Boons in America), even looking at the period changes as different popular culture texts have been adopted into mainstream society. – SaraiMW8 months ago
From my experience, a lot of 'guilty pleasures' are books that are marketed towards women, and because of this they're seen as inherently inferior to works that are aimed at a mixed audience. While, generally, these books are no less worthwhile than their counterparts, because of the stigma surrounding them people attempt to justify their enjoyment of them as a 'guilty pleasure' to avoid having to get into a lengthy discussion of why they should be allowed to enjoy them without ridicule. – jessicalea7 months ago
Very interesting idea! You could use works on the production fo taste such as Bourdieu's "Distinction" and consider the role of age, gender, race, sexuality, and other axes in defining what's a "legitimate" pleasure and what's a "guilty" pleasure. Maybe also consider the role of shame in the idea of guilty pleasure – rmostafa5 months ago