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Related: anti-clericalism - libertine - Europe - erotic fiction - France - literature - literary genre - novel
Libertine novel writers: 1700s - Casanova - John Cleland - Crébillon - Diderot - Sade - Laclos - John Wilmot
Libertine novel titles: Académie des dames ou le meursius francais (1659) - Dom Bougre (1741) - Le Sopha (1742) - Les Bijoux Indiscrets (1748) - Thérèse Philosophe (1748) - Fanny Hill (1750) - Juliette (1797)
The libertine novel was an 18th century literary genre of which the roots lay in the European but mainly French libertine tradition. The genre effectively ended with the French Revolution. Themes of libertine novels were anti-clericalism, anti-establishment and eroticism.
Authors include Claude Prosper Jolyot de Crébillon (Le Sopha, conte moral), Denis Diderot (Les bijoux indiscrets), Marquis de Sade (L'Histoire de Juliette), Choderlos de Laclos (Les Liaisons Dangereuses), John Wilmot (Sodom, or the Quintessence of Debauchery).
Other famous titles are Histoire de Dom Bougre, Portier des Chartreux and Thérèse Philosophe.
Precursors to the libertine writers were Théophile de Viau (1590-1626) and Charles de Saint-Evremond (1610-1703), who were inspired by Epicurus and the publication of Petronius.
Robert Darnton is a cultural historian who has covered this genre extensively. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertine_novel [Sept 2005]
Historically, the libertine novel is a literary phenomenon of the French 18th century. The earliest examples were inspired by the Regency (1715-23) but written and published under Louis XV, while the last ones were written during the French Revolution, notably by the Marquis de Sade. The end of Louis XIV's reign stood under the influence of the austere and religious Madame de Maintenon, and when the king died the court happily anticipated more joyous times, welcoming the Regency style. Free from Versailles etiquette and the centralized power wielded by the self-proclaimed Sun-King, the aristocracy flocked to Paris in search of renewed pleasures. The libertine novel signals this renewal of exuberant and frivolous attitudes, opposed to the strict morality enforced at Versailles after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. --http://www.routledge-ny.com/enc/eros/topic.html [Jan 2005]
While the first obscene novels were usually dialogues L'École des filles (The School for Girls) in 1655 and L'Académie des Dames (Women's Academy), first in Latin and in French in 1680the 18th-century obscene libertine novel may also be epistolary, written in the first or third person, a memoir-novel, dialogues, or even very close to drama. The first obscene bestseller of the Enlightenment was Histoire de D[om Bougre], Portier des Chartreux (1740; History of Dom Bougre) by Gervaise de Latouche, a book which Adélaïde, daughter of Louis XV, appreciated so much that she wanted to share it with her brother. Their father intervened. Dom Bougre even spawned an entire obscene dynasty: later in the century, his sister's raunchy confessions were also published as Mémoires de Suzon, sur de Dom Bougre (1777; Memoirs of Suzon, Sister of Dom Bougre) as were his niece's memoirs, Histoire de Marguerite, fille de Suzon, nièce de Dom Bougre (1784; History of Marguerite).
The most popular obscene novel throughout the 18th century, published the same year as John Cleland's Fanny Hill, was Thérèse philosophe (1748; The Philosophical Thérèse), attributed to Boyer d'Argens. It tackles the philosophical problems of human nature, temperament, and social organization and is written in an anti-clerical vein. It was reprinted throughout the century, and Sade even calls it the first truly immoral book in his Juliette (1797). Then came Fougeret de Monbron's Margot la ravaudeuse (1750; The Amorous Adventures of Margot), Andréa de Nerciat's Félicia; ou, Mes fredaines (1775; Félicia; or, My Mischief) and many other scantily dressed confessions. --http://www.routledge-ny.com/enc/eros/topic.html [Sept 2005]
David Foxon. Libertine Literature in England 1660—1745 (New Hyde Park. NY, 1965)
Roger Thompson, Unfit for Modest Ears. A Study of Pornographic, Obscene and Bawdy Works Written or Published in England in the Second Half of the Seventeenth Century (London. Macmillan. 1979).
Peter Wagner, Eros Revived: Erotica of the Enlightenment in England and America (1988)
The erotic libertine novelErotic libertine novels such as Crébillon fils's Le Sopha (1742; The Sopha), Diderot's Indiscreet Jewels, and La Morlière's Angola (1746; Angola: An Eastern Tale) include more or less thinly veiled sexual allusions. Because of Antoine Galland's translation of Les Mille et une nuits (The Arabian Nights) at the beginning of the 18th century, erotic libertine novels often draw on fashionable orientalist themes. They are often dialogues: a libertin reads an oriental and salacious tale to the countess he would like to seduce (as in Angola), or, in The Sopha, an oriental narrator tells a sultan and his sultana of his adventures when, transformed into a sofa, he was able to witness many libertine adventures. These pseudo-oriental novels are often satirical, and the erotic possibilities of the dialogue are never exploited. In fact, the tone is often amused or sarcastic: in Crébillon's novel, the stupidity of the male omnipotent sultan stands in contrast to the refinement of his sultana. La Morlière prefers not to give any clue as to the success of his libertine and leaves the novel unfinished (a libertine characteristic) by declaring that, unfortunately, the editor has not been given the last part of the manuscript. --http://www.routledge-ny.com/enc/eros/topic.html [Jan 2005]
Le roman libertin du XVIIIe siècle
Difficile de parler d'écriture libertine sans évoquer Crébillon, Sade ou Laclos, autant d'auteurs appartenant au siècle dit "des Lumières". Pourtant des auteurs considérés comme "libertins" semblent se faire connaître dès le XVIe siècle, mais moins pour leurs œuvres que pour l'esprit frondeur qu'ils y instillaient. Ainsi, des historiens humanistes étaient taxés de "libertinage" de par leurs travaux qui remettaient en cause l'histoire officielle souvent complaisante envers la Monarchie et ses représentants les plus influents.
C'est donc bien au XVIIIe siècle que l’écriture libertine à proprement parler prend une toute autre dimension. Elle met en scène, à travers le roman, une liberté de penser et d’agir qui se caractérise le plus souvent par une dépravation morale, une quête égoïste du plaisir. Des œuvres majeures comme celle de Laclos, ou encore Les Égarements du cœur et de l’esprit de Crébillon fils, ont introduit de nouveaux codes, une nouvelle façon de penser, d’écrire et de décrire le libertinage. La vie en société est présentée comme un jeu de dupe dont les libertins maîtrisent à la perfection les codes et enjeux. La séduction y est un art complexe que l’on entreprend par défi, désir ou amour-propre. La femme est identifiée comme une proie à « entreprendre », qui finit plus ou moins rapidement par céder devant son « chasseur ». On retrouve bien souvent, prodiguée par un libertin, une initiation au sexuel, à la morale, au comportement à adopter en société, destinée à celui ou celle qui devra lui succéder dans ses préceptes. L’expression choisie est fine, raffinée, souvent allusive, tranchant avec une littérature dite licencieuse. --http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertin [Sept 2005]
Eros Revived: Erotica of the Enlightenment in England and America (1988) - Peter Wagner
Eros Revived: Erotica of the Enlightenment in England and America (1988) - Peter Wagner [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
Libertine Literature in England 1660-1745 (1965) - David Foxon
Libertine Literature in England 1660-1745 (1965) - David Foxon [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
Unfit for Modest Ears: A Study of Pornographic, Obscene and Bawdy Works Written or Published in England in the Second Half of the Seventeenth-Century (1979) - Roger Thompson
Unfit for Modest Ears: A Study of Pornographic, Obscene and Bawdy Works Written or Published in England in the Second Half of the Seventeenth-Century (1979) - Roger Thompson [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
When Flesh Becomes Word: An Anthology of Early Eighteenth-Century Libertine Literature (2004) - Bradford K. Mudge
When Flesh Becomes Word: An Anthology of Early Eighteenth-Century Libertine Literature (2004) - Bradford K. Mudge [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
When Flesh Becomes Word collects nine different examples of British libertine literature that appeared before 1750. Three of these--The School of Venus (1680), Venus in the Cloister (1725), and A Dialogue Between a Married Lady and a Maid (1740)--are famous "whore dialogues," dramatic conversations between an older, experienced woman and a younger, inexperienced maid. Previously unavailable to the modern reader, these dialogues combine sex education, medical folklore, and erotic literature in a decidedly proto-pornographic form. This edition also presents a range of other examples of libertine literature, including bawdy poetry, a salacious medical treatise, an irreverent travelogue, and a criminal biography. The combination of both popular and influential texts presented in this edition provides an accessible introduction to the variety of material available to eighteenth-century readers before the publication of John Cleland's Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure in 1749.
See also: whore dialogues - libertine - 1700s
Schooling Sex: Libertine Literature and Erotic Education in Italy, France, and England 1534-1685 (2003) James Turner
Schooling Sex: Libertine Literature and Erotic Education in Italy, France, and England 1534-1685 (2003) James Turner [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
How did Casanova learn the theory of sex? Why did male pornographers write in the characters of women? What happens when philosophers take sexuality seriously and the sex-writers present their outrageous fantasies as an educational, philosophical quest?
Schooling Sex is the first full history of early modern libertine literature and its reception, from Aretino and Tullia d'Aragona in 16th century Italy to Pepys, Rochester, and Behn in late 17th century England. James Turner explores the idea of sexual education, from the simple instructional dialogue to the advanced experiments of the philosophical libertine, analysing the hard-core curiculum that defined sexuality centuries before the Marquis de Sade.
He shows how close, nuanced readings of neglected but compelling texts - like the searingly explicit Alcibiade fanciullo, L'escole des filles, and Aloisia Sigea - link them to larger issues of gender politics, aesthetics, literary criticism, sexual history, medical science, mind-body philosophy, and the educational revolution. --via Amazon
See also: 1500s - 1600s - sex education
The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France (1995) - Robert Darnton
The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France (1995) - Robert Darnton [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
More popular than the canon of the great Enlightenment philosophers were other books, also banned by the regime, written and sold "under the cloak." These formed a libertine literature that was a crucial part of the culture of dissent in the Old Regime. Robert Darnton explores the cultural and political significance of these "bad" books and introduces readers to three of the most influential illegal best-sellers, from which he includes substantial excerpts. Winner of the 1995 National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
From Publishers Weekly
More specialized than The Great Cat Massacre, Darnton's latest still cogently demonstrates through tables, case studies, analysis and anecdotes just how different the pre-Revolutionary French were from postmodern Americans. In this second volume of a trilogy that began with The Business of Enlightenment, Darnton returns to the extensive publishing records of the Societe typographique de Neuchatel (STN) to trace the demand for books forbidden as a threat to morals and politics. These "philosophical books," as they were called, included Rousseau's Social Contract. But with only one order in STN's records, it was hardly a bestseller. Accordingly, Darnton focuses on three widely disseminated books representing different popular genres: the pornographic Therese philosophe (probably by Marquis d'Argens); the philosophical utopian fantasy L'An 2440 by Louis-Sebastien Mercier; and the libelle (think libelous) Anecdotes sur Mme la comtesse du Barry ascribed to Mathieu-Francois Pidansat de Mairobert. His discussion of the distribution, reception and influence of these books is convincing and careful (general readers may find some sections on methodology a little too careful). Darnton sees these works as literature, not just sociological artifacts; and, if lengthy excerpts from L'An 2440 seem a little dated, those from Therese and Anecdotes are still ribaldly amusing. --Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. via Amazon.com
From Library Journal
With this volume, Darnton consolidates his position as one of the most innovative and influential historians of 18th-century France. For over 25 years, Darnton (Shelby Cullom Davis Professor of European History, Princeton) has been studying reading habits and book selling during the period often referred to as the Enlightenment. The present work is published conjointly with a companion volume, The Corpus of Clandestine Literature in France, 1769-1789. The latter gives statistical details for what Forbidden Bestsellers covers more descriptively. The gist of what Darnton says is that philosophes like Voltaire and Rousseau had far less impact on French readers than did the anonymous authors of scandalous, libelous, treasonous, and/or pornographic works, most of which were smuggled into France from the Netherlands, Switzerland, or the German states. Taken together, they had a corrosive effect on all established values and practices and thus contributed to the outbreak of the French Revolution. Very highly recommended for all libraries.?T.J. Schaeper, St. Bonaventure Univ., N.Y. Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --via Amazon.com
See also: clandestine - Robert Darnton - 1700s - forbidden - bestseller - French Revolution
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