Writing the Orgy: Power and Parody in Sade

Writing the Orgy: Power and Parody in Sade

Writing the Orgy: Power and Parody in Sade

Writing the Orgy: Power and Parody in Sade

Synopsis

Writing the Orgyprovides an innovative, highly persuasive interpretation of eroticism in the Marqui de Sade's writing. Combining literary theory with methodologies borrowed from anthropology, history, and psychoanalysis, the book is a brilliant feminist reading of a text--The Story of Julliete--often characterized as brutally aggressive and pornographic.

Excerpt

Donatien-Alphonse-François de Sade is a cult hero for many of our contemporaries; yet he is also accused of being repetitive and boring, and this criticism may let the reader, especially the female reader, avoid grappling with the intolerable aggression of the text. There is no denying that in one work after another, and especially in the major novels, we find the same speeches, the same orgy scenes, the same sado-erotic inventiveness, and again and again the same paroxysms. But this overdaermined repetition itself needs to be understood. How does it function? What does it correspond to? the Histoire de Juliette (The Story of Juliette) marks the coming of age of the Sadean novel and the culmination of the fictional model founded by Don Quixote. Written, unlike Don Quixote, as a first person narrative, the Histoire de Juliette exaggerates the parody and self- reflexivity of Cervantes's text, and offers an extreme instance of literary intertextuality. Seemingly the first novel that Sade conceived entirely after the French Revolution, Juliette to a large extent represents his definitive ideas; it is characterized both by a new political awareness and by changes in form. Politics are set at the heart of the orgy through the politicization of the sexual and the sexualization of the political, and the work successfully weaves parody, power relationships, and the orgy scene into one fabric. Less than four years after the women's political clubs were closed, less than two years after women were banned from assembling and taking part in public life -- two of the ways in which the Convention reacted to the disturbances and noisy revolutionary zeal of a few women -- Juliette is, together with Defoe's Moll Flanders, one of the rare eighteenth-centurynovels to be narrated from beginning to end (except for two interpolated stories) by a heroine who has freedom of movement, a freedom which at this period was inseparable from libertinism and transgression.

The orgy scene may be defined as the presentation of a collective act focusing on excess -- be it of sex, of food or of language -- and on confusion: mingling of bodies, hybrid foods (such as fish and fowl), blurring of . . .

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