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Sade: The Invention of the Libertine Body

Marcel Hénaff
Translated by Xavier Callahan
Copyright Date: 1999
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 344
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Decried as a misogynist and pornographer, imprisoned for debauchery and for his writings, there is scarcely a cultural figure as flamboyant and controversial as the Marquis de Sade, the father of the new libertine body. But this is not the only way to see Sade. In this long-awaited English translation, Hénaff says that Sade should be discussed less for the sensual heat of his writing and more for the larger poetic and economic model his work represents.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8622-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Preface to the English Edition
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    M. H.
  2. AFTERMATH I: Continuation As Incipit
    (pp. 1-14)

    The nameSade: no one is prepared to be rid of it. We can whitewash the marquis himself all we like, and with good reason. He was brave enough, rebellious enough, brazen enough, frequently enough if unjustly harassed and incarcerated, and generous enough to deserve admiration and the fullest acquittal. With all due respect to his biographers, however, the question of his name is of an entirely different order. It scarcely even belongs to the body that it once designated, historically and individually; in the family circle, that is a job for the given name. May the shade of Donatien-Alphonse-François...

  3. Part I A Poetics

    • CHAPTER ONE The Overthrow of the Lyric Body
      (pp. 17-54)

      What is the amorous body in literature? It is a concert made up of innumerable voices, a moving mosaic made up of signs, signals, symptoms. The skin, the hands, the eyes, the face never cease to express, nor gestures to signify, clothes to symbolize, even silences to speak. All the states of the heart, all its agitations, all its transformations (doubt, jealousy, happiness, despair, tenderness), all its gradations—everything has to be marked on the body, exhibited on it, because the body is the necessary screen onto which everything is projected, the only possible meeting point, and point of articulation,...

    • CHAPTER TWO Saying Everything, or the Encyclopedia of Excess
      (pp. 55-83)

      “To say everything”: this was the objective, apparently limitless and boldly announced, that Sadean discourse set for itself, and by which it intended to be defined. It is a disarmingly simple objective. And yet, if we look closely, we see that none could be more paradoxical. In fact, two contradictory connotations are wrapped up in this objective.

      The first connotation is that oftotality.To “say everything” means to undertake the encyclopedic project of surveying signifieds, collecting data, and accumulating arguments. From this standpoint, then, to “say everything” would be the exhausting, monumental task of literally sayingeverything,already an...

    • CHAPTER THREE Libertine Apathy, or the Pleasures of Methodology
      (pp. 84-103)

      The staging of the libertine body must confront a sort of paradox. On the one hand, as a programmed and dissected body with no secrets and no interiority, the libertine body is wholly turned over to the scalpel of classifying reason. On the other hand, because this is alibertinebody, it is the desiring body, the seat of the passions. And the passions are precisely what reason finds it most difficult to conceive of. Descartes gives exemplary proof of this difficulty. Having managed to set forth the cogito, and to take from it the certainty of God’s existence and...

    • CHAPTER FOUR The Imaginable and the Space of the Tableau
      (pp. 104-120)

      Sadean locales are varied indeed, and of a diversity in keeping with the peregrinations on which the libertine, moved by a nomadic desire, finds himself pulled along. It would be relatively easy to establish a typology of these locales (fortresses, palaces, monasteries, salons, bedrooms, gardens, underground passages), but a labor like this would be useful only if it managed to show what determines the very form of space in all these locales—namely, the pictorial and the theatrical, which are noticeably emphasized in the vocabulary: “That libidinous drama . . . comprised . . . three scenes”; “Very hot was...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Time Cut to Measure
      (pp. 121-142)

      An emphasis on three major themes cuts clearly across the many problematics of time contained within the European philosophical tradition. These are the themes ofdelay(waiting, patience),deviation(mediation, labor), andinteriority(memory, depth). Working in counterpoint (and often at cross-purposes) to the great systematic theses, manifest assertions, and declared oppositions of the philosophical schools, these three themes trace the oblique lines of the schools’ shared assumptions and undisputed evidence.

      In Greco-Latin and Christian antiquity, for example, whether time is regarded negatively (the fall from eternity) or positively (the preparation for eternity), it can always be classified under the...

  4. Part II An Economics

    • CHAPTER SIX The Libertine Mode of Nonproduction
      (pp. 145-185)

      When we look closely, we find no Sadean model for society, only models for a countersociety or a parasociety. The libertine does not aspire to change the general structures of society but only to make use of them, which usually means redirecting them for his own benefit. Thus there is never any question of changing the conditions of production, but only of extracting the greatest possible profit from them. As always with Sade, causes matter very little; effects are what count. Nevertheless, bringing this redirection about while leaving the status quo alone does not mean leaving the system intact; quite...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN The Expenditures of the Body
      (pp. 186-216)

      Libertine sexual pleasure requires a staging of the social and economic conditions that make it possible. At the same time, it involves a model of the body that is structured on the system of those conditions, a model that symbolically replicates their operation—in miniature, as it were. It is as if the body, at the level of its energies or activities, were reproducing the logic of social expenditure from which it derives its status as alibertinebody. It might be supposed that the general economic system according to which libertinism functions, and which is essentially oriented toward extravagant...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Noncontractual Exchange
      (pp. 217-256)

      The libertine economy staged by the Sadean text—an economy of luxury, a system of consumption whose logic extended all the way to the functioning of bodily organs and the designing of their enjoyment—is at the same time a continual harassment and undermining of what it recognizes both as its opposite and as a threat to itself: the merchant economy governed by contractual exchange.

      From Locke to Rousseau, from Hobbes to Hume, and from Kant to Hegel, eighteenth-century political thought formulated its debates and choices around the whole issue of the contract. In fact, however, when we look closely...

    • CHAPTER NINE Woman, Prostitution, Narrative
      (pp. 257-283)

      Economics, although it appears in the narrative and frames its logic, is there only to reflect the staging of the narrative economy’s origins. To say so means to assume that the text contains some figure or element functioning as the emblem and generator of this economy, some element or figure that, in any one statement, signifies the structuring conditions of its enunciation. Where Sade’s texts are concerned, once this issue has been raised, an issue that involves the form ofnarrativeeconomy that can be discerned innarratedeconomy, we see the outlines of the following hypothesis:womensustain and...

  5. AFTERMATH II: Continuation As Exit
    (pp. 284-296)

    How characteristic is it of Sade’s texts to leave the reader walleyed, as it were, as if the texts inevitably gave rise to two lines of opposed and ever more divergent affirmations? On the one hand, despite all our methodological precautions concerning the autonomy of the text, it certainly has to be acknowledged that the Sadean universe as such (everything in these texts that is described as a social system with all its powers, laws, and practices) is utterly odious, intolerable, to be rejected unconditionally. On the other hand, however, it must also be recognized that this universe, being the...