Taking Liberties: Sex, Pleasure, Coercion (1748-1928) - 15-17 June 2012
Helen Berry (Newcastle University) on Sex, Marriage and the Castrato
Joseph Bristow (UCLA) on Oscar Wilde's Sexual Practices
Cora Kaplan (Queen Mary, University of London) on Rape, Representation and Slavery
Richard C. Sha (American University) on Romanticism and the Paradoxes of Free Love
From the publication of John Cleland's Fanny Hill (1748) to D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928), literature has imaginatively exploited the relationship between freedom, coercion and sexual pleasure, constantly pushing at the boundaries of what it is permissible to describe, represent and perform. At the same time, the history of print, film and theatre censorship has been told as a story of progressive unshackling from constraint. In this narrative, these ever-widening freedoms and challenges have been understood as positively beneficial to individuals and to societies. Yet the idea of sexual liberty as an unqualified good has increasingly come under scrutiny, giving way to the realization that freedom from sexual constraint can sometimes mean imprisonment in new and alternate structures of power, frustration and denial. This international, multidisciplinary conference seeks to complicate and enrich our understanding of the relation between sex, pleasure and coercion in a liberal context. It will explore the many ways in which literary and visual texts and performances can be understood to create, reinforce, question and/or dissolve these structures, as well as interrogate the complicity of publishing and the law in their framing and dismantling.
Key conference questions are:
• How are the complex relations between sexual licence, pleasure and coercion understood, represented and negotiated during the long nineteenth century?
• How did censorship and obscenity laws shape the literary/cinematic/theatrical landscape?
• How were sexually controversial texts – from erotica to triple-decker novels, from peep-shows to West-End theatre – produced, circulated, preserved and consumed?
We are interested in literary and visual texts/performances from across the cultural spectrum. We welcome papers from English, Drama, Film & Visual Culture, History, Law, Modern Languages, Sociology and Geography.
Possible topics include:
• Sex, Sexuality and the Law
• Gender and the Law
• Rape/Sexual Violence
• Sex on Stage/Screen
• Sex Manuals/Diaries
• 'Lewd' Behaviour
• The Politics of Pleasure
• Flirtation, Seduction, Exploitation
• Corrupting the Innocent
• 'Dirty' Books
• Advertising Sex/Abortion/Contraception
• Sexual Initiations
• Sadomasochism/Masters and Slaves
• Tyranny and Slavery
The conference is organized at Newcastle University by the Long Nineteenth Century Research Group (School of English), with the support of the Gender Research Group and the Newcastle Institute for the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities.