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The Frail Social Body

Pornography, Homosexuality, and Other Fantasies in Interwar France

Carolyn J. Dean (Author)

Available worldwide

Hardcover, 275 pages
ISBN: 9780520219953
February 2000
$57.95, £42.95
Amid the national shame and subjugation following World War I in France, cultural critics there—journalists, novelists, doctors, and legislators, among others—worked to rehabilitate what was perceived as an unhealthy social body. Carolyn J. Dean shows how these critics attempted to reconstruct the “bodily integrity” of the nation by pointing to the dangers of homosexuality and pornography. Dean's provocative work demonstrates the importance of this concept of bodily integrity in France and shows how it was ultimately used to define first-class citizenship.

Dean presents fresh historical material—including novels and medical treatises—to show how fantasies about the body-violating qualities of homosexuality and pornography informed social perceptions and political action. Although she focuses on the period from 1890 to 1945, Dean also establishes the relevance of these ideas to current preoccupations with pornography and sexuality in the United States.
Carolyn J. Dean is Professor of History at Brown University and author of The Self and Its Pleasures: Bataille, Lacan, and the History of the Decentered Subject (1992) and Sexuality and Modern Western Culture (1996).
“This innovative and important work demonstrates the growing importance of homosexuality and pornography in the Western concept of bodily integrity from the 1880s to World War II. It is a wise ‘think piece’ about uncharted historical terrain—the most desirable kind of scholarship.”—Bonnie G. Smith, author of The Gender of History: Men, Women, and Historical Practice

“In this fascinating book, Carolyn Dean forces us to rethink many of our basic assumptions about pornography, homosexuality, and sexual rights. She brings together a vast repertoire of sources and places these eclectic materials at the very center of contemporary debates over the relationship between sexuality and society.”—Bryant T. Ragan, coeditor of Homosexuality in Modern France

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