Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace
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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Julie Peakman's New Book: Mighty Lewd Books


At Last! Gasp!

The paperback of Julie Peakman’s

Mighty Lewd Books
  
Published by Palgrave Macmillan October 2012.

Now considered a classic amongst scholars of eighteenth century and the history of pornography, Mighty Lewd Books provides a radical new approach to the study of sexuality in an in-depth investigation of the development of pornography. Through the examination of more than 500 pieces of British erotica, it looks at sex as seen in culture, religion and medicine throughout the long eighteenth-century.

A new form of flagellation pornography burst to the fore in the 1770s when erotic fiction became littered with whipping scenarios. Prior to this, English erotica had included a particular style of bawdy material marked by euphemisms and double entendres. Erotic poems, salacious prints and obscene satires were sold in London coffee-shops, in taverns, on street corners and in various book shops along the Strand and in Covent Garden. The underworld of booksellers and distributors are explored through trial records and witness depositions. This book also explores popular images in erotica; female flagellants whipping their submissive charges; depraved monks corrupting innocent nuns; libertine rascals seducing young virgins; and rakes carousing with their whores. Using the evidence of erotica, and taking a feminist approach within a framework of gender history, this book challenges the traditional view that women were generally seen as sexually passive.

About the Author: Julie Peakman is a historian, author and broadcaster who is internationally renowned for her work on the history of sexuality. Her books include Lascivious Bodies: A Sexual History of the Eighteenth Century; a six-volume edition of A Cultural History of Sexuality and the edited collection Sexual Perversion 1670–1890. Since its first publication her ground-breaking book Mighty Lewd Books has become essential reading for anyone interested in eighteenth century erotica and the history of sexuality. She lives in London and on the Greek island of Leros.

Reviews:
 ‘This . . . fascinating and intelligent survey shows how an explosion of obscene literature
immediately followed the wild success of pioneering (but largely non-pornographic) fictions by Defoe, Swift, Richardson and their imitators . . . Porn’s strongest selling points were that it was sexy, unrespectable and forbidden, of course, but Julie Peakman shows that it had other attributes, not always connected directly with sex. It popularised new scientific ideas in botany, anatomy and electricity. It stoked the fires of anti-Catholicism with its lecherous monks and nuns, and it encompassed radical ideas in politics.’
—      Financial Times


‘ . . . fascinating book . . . well-written and researched . . . this book offers intriguing new insights into a hidden area of gender history, challenging many preconceptions about the c.18th century.’—      BBC History Magazine


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