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Gershon Legman (1917 - 1999)
Lifespan: 1917 - 1999
Related: cultural criticism - the relationship between sex and humour - bawdiness - erotica - folklore - humour - subversion
John Clellon Holmes described Legman as a “small belligerent facsimile of Balzac.”
Rationale of the dirty joke: An analysis of sexual humor (1968) - G Legman
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In February 1999, a fat, white-haired old man lay dying in an ancient semi-dilapidated ruin. It was just outside Antibes, in the South of France. He had lived here since 1953. The ruin, which he owned, had been used as both a home and a library for its inhabitant's enormous collection of arcane erotica, from rare Oriental prints and Tijuana Bibles to hundreds of filthy limericks jotted down on index cards in a beautiful inky scrawl. The fat old man was Gershon Legman, the world’s greatest scholar/collector of the dirty joke. --Mikita Brottman, 
Gershon Legman (November 2, 1917 – February 23, 1999), American social critic and folklorist was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania to parents of Eastern or Central European Jewish descent. According to George Chauncey's book Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940 (1994), Legman was a homosexual.
As a young man he acquired a number of interests including sexuality, erotic folklore, and origami. For a period of time he was a bibliographic researcher with the Kinsey Institute; and, in 1949, he published Love and Death, an attack on sexual censorship. During this period he also published a little magazine (actually so informally it was rather like a fanzine), Neurotica, which featured notable contributions and had some influence disproportionate to its circulation. Neurotica was published as a collection in a book and had some influence on Marshall Mcluhan. The Horn Book : studies in erotic folklore and bibliography was a collection of assorted writings from the 1950s and 1960s.
In 1953 Legman left his native United States for a farm Le Clé des Champs in the village of Valbonne in the South of France, where he was able to pursue his intellectual interests with greater freedom.
Legman spent several decades compiling specimens of bawdy humor including limericks. In 1970 his first volume of over 1700 limericks (published in France in the 1950s) was released in the United States as The Limerick. He followed this with a second volume, The New Limerick in 1977, which was reprinted as More Limericks in 1980. His magnum opus was Rationale of the Dirty Joke: (An Analysis of Sexual Humor), a tour de force of erotic folklore, succeeded by No Laughing Matter : Rationale of the Dirty Joke: An Analysis of Sexual Humor, 2nd Series for which a subscription had to be paid to support publishing as no publisher would touch it after Grove did volume one in 1968.
Gershon Legman died in early 1999 in his adopted home country, France, after several years of debility.--http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gershon Legman
ProfileIn February 1999, a fat, white-haired old man lay dying in an ancient semi-dilapidated ruin. It was just outside Antibes, in the South of France. He had lived here since 1953. The ruin, which he owned, had been used as both a home and a library for its inhabitant's enormous collection of arcane erotica, from rare Oriental prints and Tijuana Bibles to hundreds of filthy limericks jotted down on index cards in a beautiful inky scrawl. The fat old man was Gershon Legman, the world’s greatest scholar/collector of the dirty joke.
Legman's death last year attracted little attention beyond a brief obituary in the New York Times. His books never became especially popular, and his writing was rarely taken seriously by academic folklorists, mainly because he attacked scholarship with skill, wit, and a perverse glee. Academics, for their own part, were scornful of Legman's tendency to lapse into vulgar asides, his virulent homophobia, and his constant groundless swipes against anyone or anything he happened to dislike. He had very few real friends, numerous enemies, and died, just as he lived, on the poverty line. But for those, like me, who found themselves fascinated and compelled by his unorthodox ideas and violent polemic, Gershon Legman will remain the Sovereign of Smut. --Mikita Brottman, http://www.spectator.net/EDPAGES/1141_sovereign.html [Jan 2005]
This limerick site is dedicated to Gershon Legman (1917 - 1999), author of the two-volume works Rationale of the Dirty Joke and No Laughing Matter: An Analysis of Sexual Humor. Among his other books were The Horn Book: Studies in Erotic Folklore; The Limerick; More Limericks; The New Limerick; Oral-Genitalism: Oral Techniques in Genital Excitement; and Love and Death: A Study in Censorship.
Gershon Legman has laid claim to having invented (1938) the first vibrating dildo at the age of 21 and is credited with having coined the phrase "Make Love, Not War," during a speech in 1963. Jack Hafferkamp, in the Summer 1999 issue of LIBIDO, remembers Gershon Legman as "...a scholar, raconteur, irascible character, and world's top-ranking authority on erotic folklore and humor."
Before writing limericks, I was a Sexologist and first came to know Legman’s work through his comprehensive book on oral sex, and this 1969 book Oral-Genitalism is quoted frequently in my book Oral Caress. As my interest in writing limericks grew, I became acquainted with this man's massive collection of limericks, all categorized and well-documented. I am deeply appreciative of his combined fascination with sexuality and erotic humor. Who best could remind us that sex should be fun?
Robert W. Birch, Ph.D. --http://female-orgasms.com/limericks/legman.htm [Sept 2004]
Love and Death, A Study in Censorship (1949) - Gershon Legman
Love and Death, A Study in Censorship (1949) - Gershon Legman [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
Publisher: New York: Breaking Point, 1949,
Legman's pioneering and self-published polemic demonstrating how in modern culture murder is more acceptable than sex. It's a wonderful piece of pamphleteering, written in the author's distinctively aggressive style and displaying the extraordinary erudition for which he is so well known. There is a tradition that the wrappers, which are printed on blood-red card, are specially treated so that sadists who become too excited by the contents find their hands stained red. Tipped into this copy are two T.L.s from Legman to a correspondant in New Jersey, one being in the original envelope and other tape repaired where the leaf has separated at a fold. Both letters are dated in the early 1950s when Legman was living at Hornaday Place in New York. There is an addition an unsigned, single-column magazine clipping regarding Legman's The Horn Book, a prospectus, addressed from Legman's NY home, for King Turd, a translation he did with his wife of Alfred Jarry's Ubu plays, and a clipping from what appears to be a mimeographed bookseller's catalogue offering for sale a copy of "Two Essays on Homosexuality" by Legman --http://www.alta-glamour.com/cgi-bin/glam/39122.html [Jan 2005]
The Horn Book: Studies in Erotic Folklore (1964?) - Gershon Legman
The Horn Book: Studies in Erotic Folklore (1964?) - Gershon Legman [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
Rationale of the dirty joke: An analysis of sexual humor (1968) - G Legman
Rationale of the dirty joke: An analysis of sexual humor () - G Legman [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
A few years ago, browsing in a dusty used-book store in Maine, I came across a curious volume. It was a fat, tattered paperback bearing the title “Rationale of the Dirty Joke.” Its author, I saw from the sixties-style futuristic cover, was G. Legman. Taking it off the shelf and riffling though its badly oxidized pages, I found that it contained what looked like thousands of erotic and scatological jokes, arranged under such themes as “coital postures,” “the big inch,” and “zoöphily.” These jokes were accompanied by Freudian-style commentary, along with random animadversions on aspects of sixties life, like Zip Codes, hippies, women who swear, and Marshall McLuhan. The most striking aspect of the volume was the author’s esoteric scholarship, exemplified by this sentence from the introduction:Particular attention should be drawn to three rare works presenting Modern Greek, Arabic, and other Levantine erotic tales and foolstories: La Fleur Lascive Orientale (‘Oxford’ [Bruxelles: Gay & Mlle. Doucé], 1882), anonymously translated from the originals by J.-A. Decourdemanche, an even rarer English retranslation also existing (‘Athens’ [Sheffield: Leonard Smithers], 1893); Contes Licencieux de Constantinople et de l’Asie Mineure, collected before 1893 by Prof. Jean Nicolaidès, and published after his sudden and mysterious death as the opening volume of a series imitating Kryptádia: “Contributions au Folklore Erotique” (Kleinbronn & Paris: G. Ficker [!], 1906-09, 4 vols.); and especially two modern French chapbooks, one entitled Histoires Arabes (Paris: A. Quignon, 1927), ascribed to an admittedly pseudonymous ‘Khati Cheghlou,’ and its sequel or supplement, Les Meilleures Histoires Coloniales (about 1935). --Jim Holt, http://www.newyorker.com/critics/books/?040419crbo_books [Jan 2005]
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