When we think of debates about pornography, what first comes to mind is the question of whether it should be banned or protected. But perhaps we should ask instead what pornography tells us about the way individuals are valued or represented. Combining literary criticism and political theory, Frances Ferguson describes the affinities between pornography and less controversial representations to provide a better understanding of its harms and to demonstrate how it works. Pornography first developed in western Europe during the late eighteenth century in tandem with the rise of utilitarianism, the philosophical position that stresses the importance of something's usefulness over its essence. Through incisive readings of Sade, Flaubert, Lawrence, and Bret Easton Ellis, Ferguson shows how pornography - like utilitarian social structures - diverts our attention from individual identities to actions and renders more clearly the social value of such actions through concrete literary representations. Only when pornography is used to expel individuals from social structures or institutions that promote value, Ferguson argues, is it potentially dangerous.
Impassioned, judicious, and deeply informed, Pornography, the Theory will prove to be essential reading for anyone interested in literature and its cultural history.
Publisher: The University of Chicago Press
Number of pages: 208
Weight: 434 g
Dimensions: 236 x 162 x 19 mm
"In this profoundly original study, Frances Ferguson persuasively makes the startling claim that modern pornography can best be understood by its analogies to utilitarian social structures. Maintaining that we miss the essence of pornography when we isolate and emphasize its sexual content, Ferguson asks us to consider pornography as a scheme that--like the social organization promoted by Bentham's utilitarianism--would produce unequivocal hierarchical evaluations of the individuals belonging to particular groups. This exciting and brilliantly argued book will be widely read and passionately debated."The Culture of Redemption--Leo Bersani, author of The Culture of Redemption
"This is not a study of pornography as such, but a deeply thoughtful meditation on an entire range of modern practices that conceptualize individuals in terms of their actions or use. Ferguson relentlessly unveils modern utilitarianism and persuasively demonstrates why appeals to belief are ineffective in a society ruled by this Benthamite calculus. This provocative study will generate controversy, as has the pornography debate, but, unlike the debate itself, Ferguson's book is consistently illuminating and rewarding."A History of the Modern Fact--Mary Poovey, author of A History of the Modern Fact