Governing pleasures : pornography and social change in England, 1815-1914 /

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Main Author: Sigel, Lisa Z., 1965-
Format: Book
Language:English
Published:New Brunswick, N.J. : Rutgers University Press, c2002.
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Review by Choice Review

In her brave but half-formed book, Sigel (history and women's studies, Millsaps College, DePaul Univ.) portrays pornography as a means of communicating changing cultural and social relationships. Thus pornography does more than titillate: it instructs. In her most convincing passages, Sigel (following the lead of Lynn Hunt's The Invention of Pornography, CH, Jan'94) reveals the attempts of British pornographers, as part of a wider radical movement, to undercut the legitimacy of ruling elites by making them ridiculous sexual objects. George IV, especially during the Queen Caroline affair, is an easy target. Elsewhere, however, Sigel struggles. Evidence is scanty for her attempt to establish exotic sexuality as part of the imperial agenda. Equally unconvincing is her assertion that pornography liberated "the working classes" from imposed standards of public morality. Additional doubts emerge at Sigel's justification of pornography as an aid to understanding the world "through the subject of sexuality." Perhaps. But how do we know? As Sigel confesses, she must often make "speculative claims" because she "cannot say with certainty" who read pornography. Still, this is a provocative work--no doubt especially to undergraduates who may relish the various acrobatic sexual poses among the numerous explicit photographs included here. Upper-division undergraduates and above.

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

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