From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Libertine (from Latin liber, meaning free) has come to mean one devoid of any restraints, especially one who ignores or even spurns religious norms, accepted morals, and forms of behavior sanctioned by the larger society. The philosophy gained new-found adherents in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, particularly in France and Britain. Notable among these were John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, the Marquis de Sade, and Aleister Crowley. "Libertine", like many words, is an evolving one, defined today as "a dissolute person; usually a person who is morally unrestrained". In modern times, libertinism has been associated with sado-masochism, nihilism, and free love.
Libertine is originally a negative term, derived by John Calvin, for opponents of his policies in Geneva, currently in Switzerland. This group, led by Ami Perrin, argued against Calvin's "insistence that church discipline should be enforced uniformly against all members of Genevan society". Perrin and his allies were elected to the town council in 1548, and "broadened their support base in Geneva by stirring up resentment among the older inhabitants against the increasing number of religious refugees who were fleeing France in even greater numbers". By 1555, Calvinists were firmly in place on the Genevan town council, so the Libertines, led by Perrin, responded with an "attempted coup against the government and called for the massacre of the French ... This was the last great political challenge Calvin had to face in Geneva.
As a literary genre
Les Liaisons dangereuses (Dangerous Liaisons, 1782), an epistolary novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, is a trenchant description of sexual libertinism. Wayland Young argues that "…the mere analysis of libertinism… carried out by a novelist with such a prodigious command of his medium… was enough to condemn it and play a large part in its destruction." (Young, 1966, 246) (See Libertine novel and the fictional character of the rake)
Pornography as subversive social commentary
During the Enlightenment, many of the French free-thinkers began to exploit pornography as a medium of social criticism and satire. Libertine pornography was a subversive social commentary and often targeted the Catholic Church and general attitudes of sexual repression. The market for the mass-produced, inexpensive pamphlets soon became the bourgeoisie, making the upper class worry, as in England, that the morals of the lower class and weak-minded would be corrupted since women, slaves and the uneducated were seen as especially vulnerable during that time. The stories and illustrations (sold in the galleries of the Palais Royal, along with services of prostitutes) were often anti-clerical and full of misbehaving priests, monks and nuns, a tradition that in French pornography continued into the 20th century. In the period leading up to the French Revolution, pornography was also used as political commentary; Marie Antoinette was often targeted with fantasies involving orgies, lesbian activities and the paternity of her children, and rumors circulated about the supposed sexual inadequacies of Louis XVI. During and after the Revolution, the famous works of the Marquis de Sade were printed. They were often accompanied by illustrations and served as political commentary for their author.
List of libertines
- Claude Le Petit
- Théophile de Viau (1590 - 1626)
- John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester
- Marquis de Sade
- Aleister Crowley
- Gabriel Naudé
- François La Mothe Le Vayer
- Giordano Bruno
- Lucilio Vanini (1585 - 1619)
- Tristan L'Hermite
- Cesare Cremonini
- Egoist anarchism
- Rake — A libertine-like stage character.
- Libertine novel
- Don Juan and Don Juanism
The Libertine may also mean:
- The Libertine (1969 film), a 1969 Italian film
- The Libertine (2005 film), a 2005 film starring Johnny Depp
- The Libertines, a British rock band