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Sade, Marquis de (1740-1814)  
page: 1  2  

In the midst of their orgy, the characters stop to rest and listen to the reading of a pamphlet calling for the abolition of Christianity as ultimately the enemy of republican institutions. In an amusing use of slang, Sade fuses the philosophical and the erotic by employing the verb socratiser--"to socratize"--a term referring to the practice of inserting a finger in the anus.

The prohibition against homosexuality forms only one target of Sade's delirious yet systematic efforts to outrage all morality, whether religious or secular. Yet Simone de Beauvoir has compellingly argued that homosexual libido is central to Sade's own personality as it emerges from his fiction--focusing particularly on the character of Dolmance, the senior libertine and master of ceremonies in Philosophie dans le boudoir, who Beauvoir, like many other readers, takes as representative of Sade himself.

One of the women in the dialogue calls Dolmance "a sodomite out of principle [who] not only worships his own sex but never yields to ours save when we consent to put at his disposal those so well beloved charms of which he habitually makes use when consorting with men." Dolmance--whom Sade depicts as a kind of erotic superman, tireless and inventive--announces that the ideal sexual position is to be, simultaneously, the active and the passive partner of anal intercourse.

For well over a century, Sade's writings were suppressed--a fate that helped create his reputation as an apostle of liberty. Advocacy of his work by the surrealists and the work of a few devoted scholars have led to a greater appreciation of his transgressive vision, which has deeply influenced writers including Georges Bataille and Michel Foucault.

Enacting a perverse fusion of desire and ideology, Sade pursues the idea of sexual freedom with a ruthlessness that is often genuinely unnerving. Alternating between pornographic and theoretical discourses--composed in a prose that shifts with astonishing ease between eloquence and vulgarity, combining humor and the most nightmarelike brutality--Sade's novels are among the most disturbing literary works ever written.

Scott McLemee

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Allison, David, Mark Roberts, and Allan Weiss, eds. Sade and Narrative Transgression. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Beauvoir, Simone de. "Must We Burn Sade?" Trans. Annette Michelson. The Marquis de Sade: The 120 Days of Sodom and Other Writings. Ed. and trans. Austryn Wainhouse and Richard Seaver. New York: Grove Press, 1966. 3-64.

Bongie, Lawrence L. Sade: A Biographical Essay. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.

Ferguson, Francis. "Sade and the Pornographic Legacy." Representations 36 (1991): 1-21.

Gallop, Jane. Intersections: A Reading of Sade with Bataille, Blanchot, and Klossowski. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1981.

Gray, Francine du Plessix. At Home with the Marquis de Sade: A Life. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998.

Harari, Josue. "Sade's Discourse on Method: Rudiments for a Theory of Fantasy." Modern Language Notes 99.5 (1984): 1057-1071.

Lacan, Jacques. "Kant with Sade." Trans. James B. Swenson, Jr. October 51 (1989): 55-75.

Lever, Maurice. Sade: A Biography. Trans. Arthur Goldhammer. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1993.

Lyly, Gilbert. The Marquis de Sade: A Biography. Trans. Alec Brown. New York: Grove Press, 1970.

Michael, Colette Verger. The Marquis de Sade: The Man, His Works, and His Critics: An Annotated Bibliography. New York: Garland, 1986.

Saylor, Douglas B. The Sadomasochistic Homotext: Readings in Sade, Balzac, and Proust. New York: Peter Lang, 1993. 39-63.

Schaeffer, Neil. The Marquis de Sade: A Life. New York: Knopf, 1999.


    Citation Information
    Author: McLemee, Scott  
    Entry Title: Sade, Marquis de  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated November 16, 2002  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  


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