The Invention of Pornography, 1500-1800: Obscenity and the Origins of Modernity

Overview

In America today the debate over the censorship of pornography continues to call into question the values of a modern, democratic culture. The Invention of Pornography, a groundbreaking collection of critical essays, traces the history and uses of pornography in early modern Europe,
offering for the first time the historical perspective crucial to understanding current controversies in politics and the arts.

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Overview

In America today the debate over the censorship of pornography continues to call into question the values of a modern, democratic culture. The Invention of Pornography, a groundbreaking collection of critical essays, traces the history and uses of pornography in early modern Europe,
offering for the first time the historical perspective crucial to understanding current controversies in politics and the arts.

Zone Books

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In Europe between 1500 and 1800, pornography was most often a vehicle that used the shock of sex to criticize religious and political authorities, observes Hunt in her introduction to this collection of nine scholarly essays. The contributors--eight historians and one professor of French--discuss such topics as pornography's links to the development of the novel, images of the whore in French pornography, the Dutch retreat from sexual openness in the late 17th century and the libertine philosophy of John Cleland, author of Fanny Hill. One essay argues that political pornography helped to bring about the French Revolution by undermining the legitimacy of the ancien regime. Comprising the proceedings of a 1991 conference at the University of Pennsylvania, where Hunt is a professor of history, this volume aims to put current debates on pornography in a historical perspective, but too many overspecialized essays weaken its impact. Illustrated. (July)
Library Journal
This book, whose contents were presented at a conference at the University of Pennsylvania in 1991, provides insight into social and political history not often examined by the historian. The reader is offered nine essays, an introduction, an extensive bibliography, and notes dealing with the source materials. The essays, which trace the evolution of pornography from 1500 to 1800--that is, from its infancy through the French Revolution--reinforce the thesis that pornography evolved as a political tool. The book is replete with drawings representing the originals found in the press of the period under discussion and supporting the narratives. The work is too specialized for general library collections but nonetheless serves a valuable service for scholars.-- Arthur K. Steinberg, Livingstone Coll., Salisbury, N.C.
Booknews
Distributed by MIT Press. Ten essays trace the history and various uses of pornography in early modern Europe, offering historical perspective that sheds light on current issues of censorship. Among the themes is the linking of pornography as a literary practice with Western modernity and the democratization of culture. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
New York Times Book Review
Fascinating...a fiercely intelligent and provocative collection that provides new insights into both the origins of modern pornography and the dynamics of cultural modernity.
--Michiko Kakutani
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780942299694
  • Publisher: Zone Books
  • Publication date: 8/26/1996
  • Series: Zone Books Series
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 412
  • Sales rank: 1,377,628
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 8.70 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 7
Introduction: Obscenity and the Origins of Modernity, 1500-1800 9
Pt. 1 Early Political and Cultural Meanings
I Humanism, Politics and Pornography in Renaissance Italy 49
II The Politics of Pornography: L'Ecole des Filles 109
III Sometimes a Scepter is Only a Scepter: Pornography and Politics in Restoration England 125
Pt. 2 Philosophical and Formal Qualities
IV The Materialist World of Pornography 157
V Truth and the Obscene Word in Eighteenth-Century French Pornography 203
Pt. 3 Eighteenth-Century Vantage Points
VI The Libertine Whore: Prostitution in French Pornography from Margot to Juliette 225
VII Erotic Fantasy and Male Libertinism in Enlightenment England 253
VIII Politics and Pornography in the Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Dutch Republic 283
IX Pornography and the French Revolution 301
Notes 341
Contributors 401
Index 403
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