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» » The Marquis de Sade: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
The Marquis de Sade: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) e-book

Author:

John Phillips

Language:

English

Category:

Fiction

Subcategory:

History & Criticism

ePub size:

1870 kb

Other formats:

lrf lrf lit doc

Rating:

4.6

Publisher:

Oxford University Press (October 13, 2005)

Pages:

144

ISBN:

0192804693

The Marquis de Sade: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) e-book

by John Phillips


Along with his other works on Sade, Phillips argues that Sade is far more than just a pornographer.

This book introduces the Marquis de Sade as writer and philosopher to new readers, offering concise but comprehensive surveys of his .

This book introduces the Marquis de Sade as writer and philosopher to new readers, offering concise but comprehensive surveys of his most controversial works, based on contemporary theoretical approaches.

This Very Short Introduction aims to disentangle the 'real' Marquis de Sade from .

This Very Short Introduction aims to disentangle the 'real' Marquis de Sade from his mythical and demonic reputation of the past two hundred years. Phillips examines Sade's life and work: his libertine novels, his championing of atheism, and his uniqueness in bringing the body and sex back into philosophy. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area.

This book introduces the Marquis de Sade as writer and philosopher to new readers, offering . John Phillips is Director of Humanities at the University of North London and author of the highly acclaimed Sade: The Libertine Novels.

The Marquis de Sade: A V. .has been added to your Cart. Along with his other works on Sade, Phillips argues that Sade is far more than just a pornographer.

Paul Wilkinson JAZZ Brian Morton MANDELA Tom Lodge THE MARQUIS DE SADE.

The series began in 1995, and now represents a wide variety of topics in history, philosophy, religion, science, and the humanities. Paul Wilkinson JAZZ Brian Morton MANDELA Tom Lodge THE MARQUIS DE SADE. John Phillips THE MIND Martin Davies NATIONALISM Steven Grosby PERCEPTION Richard Gregory PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION.

John Phillips is Director of Humanities at the University of North London and author of the highly acclaimed Sade: The .

John Phillips is Director of Humanities at the University of North London and author of the highly acclaimed Sade: The Libertine Novels. They are designed to give one the core information on a subject in a compact package. usually 100pp, this one is about 140pp. but not severely so-particularly given it being in the humanities.

This book introduces the Marquis de Sade as writer and philosopher to new readers, offering concise but comprehensive surveys of his most controversial works, based on contemporary theoretical approaches. The style is lively and accessible without sacrificing detail or depth.An introductory chapter discusses Sade's life and the links between that and his work. Relying on the many letters he wrote to his wife and lawyer from prison and on other authentic, contemporary evidence, it attempts to disentangle this life from the various myths that Sade's demonic reputation has engendered throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This initial chapter also reviews the critical corpus or reception of the work since Sade's times up to the present, and reassesses his status as an extra-canonical writer. The following six chapters provide broad coverage of Sade's main intellectual and creative activities, showing how all can be seen as the expression of a veritable cult of the body, a veneration of the physical, and the sexual as channels of transcendence.
Thomeena
History has—fairly or not—relegated the Marquis de Sade to status as the author of four violently sexual novels and the eponyms (i.e. sadism and sadist) that arose from those works. He produced many more conventional works than libertine / sadomasochistic ones (including plays, stories, essays, and correspondence), and has been credited among the leading developers of the modern short story. While his philosophy tended to be both extremist and inconsistent, it was also in the vanguard of rationalist thinking that eschewed superstition, put mankind squarely in the realm of nature, and advocated cherishing the body (if tending toward a hedonistic approach, but contrasting with religious thinking in which the body was a mere empty vessel—a burden to be gratefully cast off at death.) The man also lived through fascinating times astride the French Revolution, while spending much of his adult life in prison.

Phillips emphasizes the unfair oversimplification of Sade’s work, ideas, and place in history. That said, he does give special attention to the four libertine novels (i.e. “Justine,” “Juliette,” “120 Days of Sodom,” and “Philosophy of the Bedroom.”) This attention is spread across the book’s seven chapters as Phillips deemed relevant. While the author wants us to recognize Sade was more complicated than we might think, he also suggests that the libertine novels tell us the most about the man’s philosophy and his personal psychology. If it sounds like Phillips is a mere champion of Sade, he does mix in strong criticism with his defensive positions.

The first chapter is a biographical sketch of the life of the Marquis de Sade. Sade’s life story has been the subject of more than one book, so this is that biography greatly condensed. The chapter is designed, as its heading suggests, to separate the man from the myth. In this more objective telling of Sade’s life, one learns some interesting facts. For example, Sade held a judicial position in which he could have passed sentence on his ex-in-laws for whom he had no love. However, the ultra-violent sadist set them free because he didn’t believe in the death sentence, and knew they would be doomed to it if he did otherwise. This is representative of the contradiction of Sade, but it’s also not. Sade distrusted violence in the hands of groups and government even while he swore it was the way of nature between individuals. There is a seed of truth in his apparently irrational stance, and that is that we humans are inescapably of nature.

Chapter two is entitled “Man of Letters” and it looks at Sade as an author and scholar. Here we learn about the breadth and depth of Sade’s work which included comedies, tragedies, and satires, and in which plays out in several media. Chapter three is about Sade’s stance as an atheist, which could have gotten him killed before or after the Revolution, and it was a much more lethal stance than his life as a pornographer. (Note: I use “pornographer” as the authorities might. Phillip makes a point [upon which I agree] that most of Sade’s libertine writings are too disgusting and/or violent to achieve eroticism. Some would classify them in the horror genre rather than that of erotica.)

The fourth chapter describes Sade’s life around the French Revolution. He was in prison at times before and after, but—as mentioned--at one point was given a judgeship. Phillips points out that at one point Sade’s prison cell overlooked a yard in which Robespierre’s guillotine operated as the revolutionary’s “Terror” was in progress. (As has been true on numerous other occasions, revolutionaries can more than match the brutality of those they overthrew.) It seems likely that witnessing executions had a profound influence on Sade’s psyche and philosophy.

Chapter five is about Sade’s theatricality. Besides being a playwright, Sade was known to act and also to use theatrical elements in his other written works. Phillips specifically notes this tendency with respect to “120 Days of Sodom” in which much of the action revolves around four libertines listening to stories of old prostitutes, which the libertines then try to reenact or outdo in person.

Chapter six delves into an area of great controversy: Sade’s views on women. Sade has often been dismissed as a she-hating misogynist. This reputation isn’t without reason, despite the fact that Sade’s libertine characters are brutal to males over which they have power in similar fashion. However, one sees in both “Philosophy of the Boudoir” and “Juliette” a more nuanced view. The former is a girl’s coming of age story (coming to age as a lady libertine, though), and the latter is a counterpoint to “Justine” in which tragedy after tragedy befalls a virtuous female lead (in “Juliette,” Justine’s separated sister--who took to vice in accord with the ways of nature as Sade saw them--experiences prosperity beyond all expectations.) The take-away is that Sade may have been a hater of goody-two-shoes women, but his views on jezebels seems to border on affectionate.

The final chapter considers Sade’s perspective on liberty. Like his positions on femininity and philosophy, it’s a mixed bag of muddled views, but it doesn’t lack for boldness. As mentioned, Sade saw both the before and after of Revolution and was inherently distrustful of any party in power. He’d been an aristocrat (if a scandalized one) and he’d been freed from the royal dungeons--thus currying temporary favor among revolutionaries. And, of course, he’d watched many a head roll wondering if his day wasn’t soon to come. He saw mankind in the Hobbesian state of nature, and couldn’t help but have it reinforce his established views.

The book has numerous graphics. One should note that many of these are line drawings of a sexual and / or sadomasochistic nature. There are also “further reading” and “references” section, that are a little longer than average for books in this series.

I’ve reviewed a number of books in this “A Very Short Introduction” series put out by Oxford University Press. They are designed to give one the core information on a subject in a compact package. This one is slightly longer than average for the ones I’ve previously reviewed (i.e. usually 100pp, this one is about 140pp.), but not severely so--particularly given it being in the humanities.

I’d recommend this book to anyone who wants to separate the Marquis de Sade from his myth. It’s not straight biography, and--if that’ s specifically what you’re looking for--it may not be your primary choice, but I’d still recommend it for some of the information on specific subtopics addressed.
LadyShlak
John Philips cuts through a lot of myths around a man whose reputation not only makes readings difficult, but the obscenity of a few key pieces of his literature overshadow the entire rest of his corpus. Philips tries to navigate the the contradictions of interpretation (feminist or misogynist) and of de Sade himself (murder is defensible in some situations but capital punishment is an atrocity). This is admirable given the format of the book and the complexity of the topic.

There are points where Philips seems to flirt with apologetics and Philips also seems to read Robespierre's Kantianism into De Sade in a way that seems to misread Kant. De Sade does seem to predate a vulgar reading of Nietzsche according to Philips, but Philips also admits that it is hard to tell when De Sade is being satirical about libertines or using libertines in his works as a mouth piece. I also wish the relationship Baron d'Holbach was more completely explored. Still Philip gives both personal and historical context to understanding and approaching De Sade.
Mori
Excellent.
Mataxe
There are few people in history whose reputation precedes them to a greater degree than the notorious Marquis de Sade. He is rarely thought of as anything but a vile and violent pornographer whose personal life largely mirrored his written work--so much so that the sexual behavior represented in his most notorious novels is named sadism in his "honor". John Phillips has devoted much scholarly research to rehabilitating the image of Sade, and this brief book (from the outstanding Oxford Very Short Introductions series)is an admirable inclusion to this effort. Along with his other works on Sade, Phillips argues that Sade is far more than just a pornographer. Rather, as a writer he displays wit, irony and satire at a level rarely reached; and as a thinker he develops understandings of man and society that are in many ways well ahead of their time, and worth serious consideration on their own merit as plausible accounts.

After a brief overview of Sade's life, Phillips undertakes an examination of Sade's literary works, placing them within the context of both the widespread government and priestly corruption of l'Ancienne Regime, as well as the haphazard violence of Robbespierre's Committee of Public Safety. In his interpretation, Sade comes through as a master of social and political satire.

But more than just a satirist (though one of the highest order, deserving of recognition along with such greats as Swift, Voltaire, Ehrenreich and Vidal), Sade comes across as someone with a new philosophical approach to man and the world. At a time where atheism was a capital offense, Sade was an unabashed atheist. Long before Freud, Sade recognizes the fundamentality of sexuality to human life. Long before existentialism, Sade was concerned with understanding man within the context of a meaningless world governed only by natural law. Perhaps the best chapter of the book is chapter 5: Theatres of the Body, where Phillips explicates Sade's conception of what we could call (though this is not Phillips' term) a "sextopia", where it is the body and its needs, especially its sexual needs, and not the soul, where man's true nature lay. Especially insightful is his presentation of Sade's "Philosophy in the Boudoir" as an antithesis to the story of the fall-where Eugenie's education into libertinism (which is nicely explicated in the novel) leads her not into expulsion from a spiritual Eden, but assumption into a sexual Eden.

There are many fine points to this work. Phillips clearly places Sade's thought on a continuum with both his predecessors (Julien Offray de la Mettrie and Paul Henri Thierry Baron d'Holbach in particular) and those influenced by him (including Freud, Richard von Krafft-Ebing, Angela Carter and Guillaume Apollinaire). He does an excellent job of bringing out serious philosophical concerns and arguments from Sade's work, even arguing that desipe Sade's reputation his works are so filled with philosophical discourse that they often *fail* as pornography. Phillips also does an outstanding job of evaluating Sade's relationship with feminism and postmodernism as far more ambiguous than many often suppose.

All in all, I have only two complaints about the book, one of which is fairly tangential. The tangential problem is that Phillips tries to locate Sade's own thought within the ethics of Immanuel Kant, but Phillips gets Kant's moral thought as wrong as possible: the view attributed to Kant is precisely the view Kant spends no less than *three* books arguing against. But that's a small matter given the purpose of the book. My only real substantive complaint is that I wish Phillips would have paid more *explicit* attention to Sade's critique of the Enlightenment ideal of reason as a guide to the moral construction of society. This is merely hinted at in this work, but it strikes me that one of Sade's main lessons is the inability of reason to overcome the eruptions of the passions, particularly our "sadistic" and violent urges. Given the quality of this work overall, I suspect that this may be covered more explicitly in Phillips' other works on Sade.

Overall, this is an excellent introduction to the ideas and writings of a man who, like Nietzsche and Marx, is far more often talked about than read. It not only undermines many common assumptions about Sade, but it presents him as a serious literary and philosophical figure whose writings are worth far more careful attention than has been paid to them to date. For that, Phillips deserves our, and le Bon Marquis', sincere thanks.

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