By the end of the nineteenth century, women had become an undeniable force both in the public discussion of social life and in politics itself. Yet in art and literature women's bodies continued to be represented-- and domesticated-- by men. They were still more often the object of the artist's or writer's gaze than they were the subject of their own representing processes. The erotic potential of women's bodies, however, was far from a marginal concern in the elaboration of modern forms of politics, art, literature, and psychology. In "Eroticism and the Body Politic", scholars from art history, history, and literature examine the frequent intersections between the body erotic and the body politic. Focusing on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century France, they show how eroticized representations of bodies had a multitude of political and cultural meanings. The authors consider the eroticized body in a wide variety of media: from Fragonard's paintings of "erotic mothers", to political pornography attacking Marie Antoinette, to the "new woman" of fin-de-siecle decorative arts.
Exploring the possibilities of a multidisiplinary approach, the volume shows that eroticism had an impact far beyond the usual confines of libertine or pornographic literature-- and that politics included much more than voting, meeting, or demonstrating. At a time of general methodological ferment in the "human sciences", "Eroticism and the Body Politic" brings fresh approaches to the developing field of cultural studies.