Eroticism and the Body Politic  

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Eroticism and the Body Politic (1991) is a collection of essays edited by Lynn Hunt

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By the end of the nineteenth century, women had become an undeniable force both in the public discussion of social life and in politics itself. Yet in art and literature women's bodies continued to be represented-- and domesticated-- by men. They were still more often the object of the artist's or writer's gaze than they were the subject of their own representing processes. The erotic potential of women's bodies, however, was far from a marginal concern in the elaboration of modern forms of politics, art, literature, and psychology.
In "Eroticism and the Body Politic", scholars from art history, history, and literature examine the frequent intersections between the body erotic and the body politic. Focusing on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century France, they show how eroticized representations of bodies had a multitude of political and cultural meanings. The authors consider the eroticized body in a wide variety of media: from Fragonard's paintings of "erotic mothers", to political pornography attacking Marie Antoinette, to the "new woman" of fin-de-siecle decorative arts.
Exploring the possibilities of a multidisiplinary approach, the volume shows that eroticism had an impact far beyond the usual confines of libertine or pornographic literature-- and that politics included much more than voting, meeting, or demonstrating. At a time of general methodological ferment in the "human sciences", "Eroticism and the Body Politic" brings fresh approaches to the developing field of cultural studies.


  • Fragonard's erotic mothers and the politics of reproduction / Mary Sheriff --
  • The political economy of the body in the Liaisons dangereuses of Choderlos de Laclos / Anne Deneys --
  • The diamond necklace affair revisited (1785-1786) : the case of the missing queen / Sarah Maza --
  • Political exposures : sexuality and caricature in the French Revolution / Vivian Cameron --
  • The many bodies of Marie Antoinette : political pornography and the problem of the feminine in the French Revolution / Lynn Hunt --
  • The social body : disorder and ritual in Sade's Story of Juliette / Lucienne Frappier-Mazur --
  • The "new woman," feminism, and the decorative arts in fin-de-siècle France / Debora Silverman --
  • Splitting hairs : female fetishism and postpartum sentimentality in the fin de siècle / Emily Apter --
  • Rodin's Reputation / Anne M. Wagner.

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