Norberg Libertine whore

Norberg Libertine whore - T h e I n v e n t i o n o f P o r...

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Unformatted text preview: T h e I n v e n t i o n o f P o r n o g r a p h y O b s c e n i t y a n d t h e O r i g i n s o f M o d e r n i t y , 1 5 0 0 - 1 8 0 0 E d i t e d b y L y n n H u n t Z O N E B O O K S N E W Y O R K 1996 CHAPTER Six T h e L i b e r t i n e W h o r e : P r o s t i t u t i o n i n F r e n c h P o r n o g r a p h y f r o m M a r g o t t o J u l i e t t e K a t h r y n N o r b e r g The prostitute plays a particularly important role in the history of pornography; she was present at its birth. Arguably the first por- nographic text, Aretino's Ragionamenti, is a conversation between two whores. She was the heroine of one of the most important and enduring pornographic texts, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleas- ure. She is a participant in the ultimate pornographic world, that of the Marquis de Sade, for her debauches are the subject of one of his longest novels, Histoire de Juliette. From the Renaissance to the French Revolution, the courtesan fills libertine literature; her life and loves form the very stuff of many pornographic texts. The whore biography or confession is exceedingly common in the genre and, usually, the whore herself narrates the story. From La Puttana errante to Fanny Hill, from Margot to Juliette, the prosti- tute's chatter simply is much of Western pornography, and no other character, male or female, pimp or rake, can dispute her dominance in the world of the obscene. Because she appears so frequently in libertine literature, the prostitute is an excellent instrument through which to detect changes in pornography and, in turn, changes in attitudes and beliefs. The prostitute can function as social barometer and indi- cate new attitudes toward old political hierarchies. Depending 225 E I G H T E E N T H - C E N T U R Y V A N T A G E P O I N T S on the author, the prostitute can ridicule or celebrate her clients, who encompass everyone from old aristocrats to upstart bour- geois. She can be either social critic or complacent observer, and her boudoir can be a place of political agitation or simple dalli- ance. At the same time, the prostitute reveals a great deal about attitudes toward women, female sexuality and women's social role. The sexual politics of the time can be made evident by whether the pornographer chooses to paint her as a victim or a predator. However, representations of prostitutes do not convey the real- ity of prostitution. The libertine whore is utterly fictional, an image which has more to do with male fantasy than with social reality. The bordello, like the harem, arouses all sorts of desires, and the pornographic bagnio belongs to the realm of fantasy, not to the streets of Paris or London. The whore, too, is a wholly fictional creation, but she is no less valuable for it. She can serve as a guide to an often neglected corner of European culture, por- nography, and, in so doing, provide insight into changes in poli- tics and gender....
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Norberg Libertine whore - T h e I n v e n t i o n o f P o r...

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