Bad Books: Rétif de la Bretonne, Sexuality, and Pornography

by Amy S. Wyngaard

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Hardback • 2012 • $70.00
ISBN: 978-1611494204

Paperback • 2015 • $39.99
ISBN: 978-1611495737

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Bad Books reconstructs how the eighteenth-century French author Nicolas-Edme Rétif de la Bretonne and his writings were at the forefront of the development of modern conceptions of sexuality and pornography. Although certain details are well known (for example, that Rétif’s 1769 treatise on prostitution, Le Pornographe, is the work from which the term pornography is derived, or that he was an avid foot and shoe fetishist), much of this story has been obscured and even forgotten: how the author actively worked to define the category of obscenity and the modern pornographic genre; how he coined the psycho-sexual term “fetish” and played a central role in the formation of theories of sexual fetishism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Thus this book is also about literary history and how it is written: it explores how Rétif, perceived as a bad author in both senses of the term, and his contributions were glossed over or condemned, such that the originality of his texts has still not been fully established.

About the Author
Amy S. Wyngaard is associate professor of French and Francophone Studies at Syracuse University.