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Sade: queer theorist
Volume: SVEC 2013:03
Series editor: Jonathan Mallinson
Author: William F. Edmiston

Date of publication: March 2013

Pagination: x + 244 pp., pb (broché)

Price: £65 / €76 / $84

  ISBN-13: 978-0-7294-1064-9

Description: In an era when both Church and State assigned gender roles and defined sexual practices in terms of male/female, lawful/illicit, Sade’s extensive accounts of sexual activity were categorized as deviant, prurient or provocative. William F. Edmiston explores how Sade’s unique challenge to sexual, moral and social taboos anticipates the discourses of queer theory.
Following an overview of queer theory, Edmiston examines the categories of sex, gender and sexuality as treated in some of Sade’s best- and lesser-known works. He demonstrates the extent to which Sade erodes the boundaries of sexual opposition through discourses justifying rather than illegitimizing ‘unlawful’ sex. The author reveals the coexistence of two competing discourses on sexuality: a proclivity that cannot be eradicated, and a habit that one can choose to adopt. This pioneering re-reading culminates with an examination of how recent biographies attempt to force Sade into a normal/abnormal dichotomy, manipulating police reports, personal correspondence or narratorial interventions to establish (or not) the author’s homosexuality.
Through revealing Sade’s attempts to undermine prevailing gender roles and sexual identities, Edmiston uncovers a ‘queer’ discourse that challenges the still common assumption that heterosexuality is exclusively natural and normative, and that nature has always prompted humans to reproduce, rather than to seek pleasure.

Sade, a queer theorist?
What is queer theory?
‘Sodomie’ and ‘antiphysique’ in the writings of Sade
Corpus and other details
1. Sade’s erotic novels: can we read them as queer?
Sex (anatomy): female/male
Gender (behavior): masculine/feminine
Sexuality: (object-choice of sexual pleasure) homosexual/heterosexual
2. Nature, sodomy, semantics and queer discourse
Sodomy: queer discourse
Practice or proclivity?
3. Atrocities of a quite different kind: non-normative eroticism in Aline et Valcour
Incest in the frame narrative
Homosexuality and incest in the embedded narratives
4. Queering the Marquis

Collaborator biographies: William F. Edmiston is Distinguished Professor of French, Emeritus, at the University of South Carolina, where he taught French language, literature, and culture until 2012. He is the author of a number of books and articles on eighteenth-century French literature. His research encompasses the novel, short fiction and narrative techniques.