It is of course the work of Marquis de Sade that interests us here. It so happens that one of the translations of Wainhouse, Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom, and Other Writings is freely available online. And the most interesting item in that collection is “Yet Another Effort“, perhaps the first piece of writing anyone who wishes to acquaint himself with de Sade should read.
As you may have heard, I have resumed my work as pornosopher and I am currently writing my master’s thesis which investigates whether porn can be art. In my research I get lost very often (which kind of seems to be the purpose).
However, it is time for me to stop getting lost, because I have another paper to finish on political myth, a paper which I have tentatively titled “Mythe, meute, Europa,” which translates as “Myth, mob, Europe.”
Before I start that work, one of my most satisfying finds of the latest obsessive quest: Annie Besant’s sublime pamphlet: “Is the Bible Indictable?” (illustration).
Besant asks (in 1877, mind you!):
“Does the Bible come within the ruling of the Lord Chief Justice as to obscene literature? Most decidedly it does, and if prosecuted as an obscene book, it must necessarily be condemned, if the law is justly administered.”
Photo: Left: Achetez des Pommes ,(Buy Apples), anonymous nineteenth-century photograph, courtesy of Linda Nochlin. Right: Linda Nochlin, Achetez Bananes (Buy My Bananas). This juxtaposition proved that the implication “erotic” is “erotic-for-men.”
But the best was this: as I was writing a possible rationale for why pornography had become salonfähig in the 1960s and 1970s and I wanted to write about nobrow and Sontag and Fiedler I did some extra research on Cross the Border — Close the Gap and found the whole transcript of the 1969 Playboy article including the page scans and including the illustration by Karl Wirsum (above).
Having lost a lot of time (time I should’ve spent on my thesis), I decided to write this snippet reporting my vagrancies. As I was thinking of a picture that could illustrate it, I suddenly thought of Death by a Thousand Cuts. Are we not guilty — with every Chinese product we buy — of the violations of human rights in China perpetrated on a daily basis? But then I couldn’t. The image is just too cruel.
Instead, I give you a cover of Alain on Happiness[above], from whence came Alain’s dictum on the mandarin, not referenced by Ginzburg in his sublime essay on emotional and social distance.
Nuit dété (Summer Night) [above] is one of them. Sickert’s erotica is exemplary of the cult of ugliness. Nevertheless, I like his nudes better than Lucian Freud’s, which belong to the same ‘cult of ugliness’ category. Of note is also that Sickert wrote of eroticism in the visual arts in writings such as “The Naked and the Nude“.
I say “writings“, but I’m not sure he did more writing on the nude than this one.
I finally read the original page on which the problem of the tautological genre-trap is first elaborated [above].
The page is from Andrew Tudor’s 1974 Theories of Film, the chapter’s title is “Critical Method: Auteur and Genre”, the page 135.
The text reads:
“To take a genre such as a ‘Western’, analyse it, and list its principal characteristics, is to beg the question that we must first isolate the body of films which are ‘Westerns’. But they can only be isolated on the basis of the ‘principal characteristics’ which can only be discovered from the films themselves after they have been isolated. That is, we are caught in a circle that first requires that the films be isolated, for which purposes a criterion is necessary, but the criterion is, in turn, meant to emerge from the empirically established common characteristics of the films.”