The Secret Museum  

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"If good art is medicine, then bad art is poison; like drugs, books and pictures must possess at least the potential to kill, if they have the power to heal. With the possible exception of sewage (which, of course, can also be poisonous), the analogy between obscenity and poison is the most common rhetorical device in the limited repertoire of the pornography debate." --p. 169

Other references to poison: "sweet poison to such minds" (p. 38); "Plato makes art out to be something like poison" (p. 40); "all Loose and Licentious Prints, and Publication, dispensing Poison" (p. 99), [see Proclamation For the Encouragement of Piety and Virtue, 1787 ]; "a sale of poison more deadly than prussic acid" (p. 116); "if the picture was "poison", however, as the judge declared" (p. 128); "and its poison was destroying the whole national life" (p. 168)., see poison as a metaphor used in censorship

Related e



Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Secret Museum: Pornography in Modern Culture (1987) is a book by Walter Kendrick on the concept of pornography. The book correctly states that the word was not coined until the late 18th century, which became a public issue once the printing press gave ordinary people access to the erotica of the Greeks and Romans, the art and literature of the French enlightenment, and the poems of the Earl of Rochester and John Cleland's Fanny Hill.

From the secret museums to the obscenity trials of Madame Bovary and Lady Chatterley's Lover, to Robert Mapplethorpe, cable TV, and the Internet, Kendrick explores how conceptions of pornography relate to issues of freedom of expression and censorship.



Preface To The Paperback Edition ix

The introduction to the paperback edition is dwells on the semantic theory spoof by Swift "Since Words are only Names for Things" from Gulliver's Travels.

Origins 1 (32)

This chapter focuses on the etymology of the term pornography. It is the most in depth discussion of the subject to be found in literature. A second investigation is the unearthing of Pompeii and describing its secret museum (the publications of Sylvain Maréchal and Louis Barré, see first descriptions of the excavations of the Herculaneum.)

The Pre-Pornographic Era 33 (34)

Kendrick cites Plato who argued that art is "two steps removed from the truth", life itself being already an imitation of a platonic ideal.

The summary of the Platonic position is given later in the book but it is actually what these notes on Plato and Socrates versus Aristotle is actually about:

"It is possible to say that those who would ban pornography take a Platonic position, while those who regard it as harmless — or deny it any influence whatever — veer toward the Aristotelian side."

The wider context in which this discussion takes place is the nature of representation, the issue of media influence and the effects of mimesis and reverse mimesis.

See also

Adventures of the Young Person 67 (28)

In TSM, the allegory of the young person is exemplified Georgiana Podsnap, a character in Charles Dickens's Our Mutual Friend.

She is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Podsnap; portrayed as very sheltered, shy, trusting, and naïve and, as such, is taken advantage of by the more manipulative upper-class characters such as Fledgeby and the Lammles who scheme to “befriend” her in order to take her money; courted by Fledgeby through Alfred Lammle, though not with honourable intentions, and nearly finds herself trapped in a marriage with Fledgeby until Sophronia Lammle suffers a change of heart.

The allegory of the young person establishes a connection with the invention of childhood.

The chapter also focuses on the 19th century obsession with classification as professed by Ashbee.

Trials of the Word 95 (30)

In the chapter "Trials of the Word," Kendrick equates the end of obscenity trials with regards to the printed word with the end or death of literature. However, he fails to mention the Greenleaf trial (Redrup v. New York).

The American Obscene 125 (33)

Good Intentions 158 (30)

Hard at the Core 188 (25)

This chapter mentions Esar Levine's The Secret Museum of Anthropology, a book in the category which I've coined anthropologica.

From that book, the plate above[1]. Several sources state that the images were appropriated from the German book Das Weib bei den Naturvölkern by Ferdinand Freiherr von Reitzenstein.

Two of the photos are of so-called Hottentot Venuses.

The Post-Pornographic Era 213 (28)

Afterword, 1996 241 (26)

Illustration: The cyberporn cover[2] of Time Magazine's 1995 by Matt Mahurin, showing a young child at a computer keyboard, with "CYBERPORN" printed in big blue letters under his chin.

Reference Notes 267 (28)

List Of Works Cited 295 (10)

Index 305

See also


  • Kendrick, Walter. The Secret Museum: Pornography in Modern Culture (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996)

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