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Annals of Pornographie: How Porn Became Bad

Annals of Pornographie: How Porn Became Bad

Автором Brian M. Watson

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Annals of Pornographie: How Porn Became Bad

Автором Brian M. Watson

Длина:
427 pages
7 hours
Издатель:
Издано:
Mar 5, 2016
ISBN:
9781311042453
Формат:
Книге

Описание

This is a revised and updated edition of the book, including more recent information, footnotes, a bibiliography, page numbers (print edition) and more beautiful fonts!

In a groundbreaking reappraisal of European history, award-winning historian Brian M. Watson gives the secret history of smut through the literature, art, photography, and historical figures you didn’t learn about in school. Watson combs the bawdy and forgotten corners of Western civilization to reveal the hidden story of a topic that still causes anger, arousal, excitement and scandal.

Combining an entertaining style with brand-new research, Annals of Pornographie: How Porn Became Bad explores not only the salacious history of pornography, but also explains the evolution of Western sexuality, the ‘creation’ of privacy (and public life), and the ‘invention of manners.’ The book analyzes Western culture’s tortured and rapturous relationship with erotic representation by probing the underside of its culture, art, literature, philosophy, sexology, psychology and its law. Covering everything from the fifteenth century Renaissance all the way up to the twentieth century Playboy magazine, Watson takes the reader on a grand tour of the forgotten debauchery of Western history.

Along the way, we meet a variety of colorful characters who rarely get their historical due: Lord Rochester, the royal Pimp; Pietro Aretino, the Renaissance godfather of pornography; Edmund Curll, the first Hugh Hefner; along with many other tax-dodging street pornographers and radicals who roamed the streets of London, Paris, New York, and other major metropoles. Watson takes us from the hallowed halls of the Council of Trent, where Popes and kings fought over the future of the west, to Grub Street, a narrow and disgusting London alley filled with hack writers, aspiring poets and pushers of dirty French pictures and many other sights and sounds from Western Civilization’s glorious and seedier locales.

Annals of Pornographie: How Porn Became Bad reveals, for the first time, exactly how pornography went from being beautiful to being bad.

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Издано:
Mar 5, 2016
ISBN:
9781311042453
Формат:
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Annals of Pornographie - Brian M. Watson

Annals of Pornographie: How Porn Became ‘Bad’

Revised & Updated Edition

BRIAN M. WATSON

Copyright © 2016 Original Edition by Brian Watson

Copyright © 2019 Revised & Updated Edition by Brian Watson

All rights reserved.

ISBN: 1311042458

ISBN-13: 978-1311042453

for a.g., s.m. & j.s., for the years in time

and for z.b. & k.b., for the time in years

love always,

b

1.

Introduction

Omnium rerum principia parva sunt.

(The beginnings of all things are small.)

Cicero, De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum, V. 21.

Truth! stark naked truth, is the word, and I will not so much as take the pains to bestow the strip of a gauze-wrapper on it.

John Cleland, Fanny Hill

begin, v1 /bɪˈɡɪn/

Of common West Germanic or ? Germanic formation: Old English bi- , be-ginnan is identical with Old Saxon and Old High German bi-ginnan. . . . The latter (Old High German and Middle High German) had the senses 'to cut open, open up, begin, undertake'; hence it is inferred that the root sense of *ginnan was 'to open, open up,' [and] Old English gínan 'to gape, yawn,' from a stem *gi- , appearing also in Old Church Slavonic zij-ati , Latin hiāre 'to gape, open'i

ONE REASON I begin, well, with 'begin,' is to draw attention to words. The entries in an etymology dictionary look much like the description above for the word ‘begin’—they typically list the earlier formats of the word, such as biginnan or begouth, and their meanings (to 'undertake' or to 'open up'), and how those meanings changed and developed into the word we use today. These entries can be incredibly detailed and expansive—the entire entry for 'begin' is nearly 500 words long—far longer than this paragraph. However, even the most detailed etymology does not tell the full story of a word's origin, purpose, or intention. For example, here is the entry for pornography:

Pornography, Brit. /pɔːˈnɒɡrəfi/, U.S. /pɔrˈnɑɡrəfi/

Hellenistic Greek πορνογράϕος (adjective) that writes about prostitutes (ancient Greek πορνο- (see porno- comb. form) + -γράϕος -graph comb. form) + -y suffix (compare -graphy comb. form), perhaps after French pornographie treatise on prostitution (1800), obscene painting (1842), description of obscene matters, obscene publication (1907 or earlier)ii

Do you see the difference? This entry, in its entirety, is not even 50 words. The usually-verbose Oxford English Dictionary simply says that it is a Greek word literally meaning 'writers about prostitutes.' It doesn't tell you that this word is only found once in Ancient Greek, where Athenaeus comments on an artist that painted portraits of courtesans. Then the word fell out of use for 1500 years until it was used in 1842 to describe a proposal on how to regulate prostitutes and then the erotic wall murals depicting prostitutes uncovered at Pompeii.iii What happened? Why was a word resurrected after so long? Why was it needed? Why weren’t the murals at Pompeii just called the Pompeii Murals, or referred to as the Erotic Art in Pompeii and Herculaneum like Wikipedia does today?

Consider another comparison: On January 20th, 1674, John Wilmot, the 2nd Earl of Rochester, delivered a poem he had promised to King Charles II. In a rather unfortunate moment for the history of poetry, Rochester accidently delivered into the hands of the king The Island of Britain, also known as A Satyre on Charles II. Upon discovering his mistake (and hearing that the king wanted his head), he was forced to flee the court for his safety. By February, however, the king seemed to forgive him, granting him the title 'Ranger of Woodstock Park' and allowing him to return to court.iv Two centuries later, in October of 1869, Daniel Gabriel Rossetti published Jenny, in his Exhumation Proofs, a poem that had originally been buried with his wife in 1862. This poem also met with considerable controversy, but Rossetti was not as easily forgiven. Even years after the fact, he was accused by Robert Buchanan, a Scottish dramatist, of being fleshy all over, from the roots of his hair to the tips of his toes. . .snake-like in [his] eternal wriggling, lipping, munching, slavering and biting, and responsible for a host of offences, including decency outraged, history falsified, purity sacrificed, art prostituted, language perverted, religion outraged, among others.v

When the texts of the two poems are compared, however, it is Rochester's poem that seems to outrage decency and religion, falsify history, prostitute art, and so on. The poem begins in earnest with In th' isle of Britain, long since famous grown / For breeding the best cunts in Christendom, //[lives] the easiest King and best-bred man alive, and goes on to describe both the Kings whoring and 'tarse' (penis) in obscene detail, complaining that Charles is starving his people, hazarding his crown. // . . .for he loves fucking much.vi The language of Rossetti's poem, by contrast, hardly perverts language—it begins with Lazy laughing languid Jenny, / Fond of a kiss and fond of a guinea, / Whose head upon my knee to-night / Rests for a while, which hardly seems obscene.vii The most 'suggestive' the poem gets is to speak of Jenny's dainties through the dirt and the only 'action' seen in it is one kiss.viii

What changed in the two intervening centuries? Why did Rossetti's poem, so tame in comparison to Rochester's, inspire such a diatribe? Why do our modern eyes immediately peg Rochester as the 'libertine poet' or 'a profane wit,' as a 2004 book and movie did?ix This book is an attempt to answer these questions, an attempt to trace a history through the 'underside' of Western culture, its art, literature, philosophy, sexology, psychology and its changing laws. It is an attempt to explain the modern view—to explain exactly why, where, and how porn became 'bad.' The other reason I began this chapter with the word 'begin' is found in its older meanings of 'to gape' or 'to open up'—sometimes history needs to be cut open, revealed, and stripped. Sometimes the past is not as clear as battle dates or body counts. Sometimes it is hidden in the shadows, buried beneath tons of rock and ash, or taking place behind a bedroom door.

Because, like it, love it, use it, or hate it, modern society has a tortured relationship with pornography. This relationship manifests in a number of ways, like 2013's anti-pornography rules in the United Kingdom, which aimed to cut off both children and adults from internet pornography by default, the 2015 ruling that adult eBooks could only be sold after ten pm in Germany, or the raft of anti-pornography Public Health Crisis bills passed in 17 US states.x Books condemning the corrupting effects of pornography appear with regularity, with such titles as; Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality, Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity, or Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain, which claims that our culture has become pornified. Online communities like Reddit's NoFap have over a quarter-million 'Fapstronauts' who seek to abstain from pornography and masturbation. . . as a test of self-control or to 'quit' pornography all together if excessive masturbation or pornography has become a problem in their lives.xi The fapstronauts encourage and compete with each other by daily updating the community on their abstinence from PMO (Porn, Masturbation, Orgasm). Websites like yourbrainonporn.com claim that Evolution has not prepared your brain for today's Internet porn, and that it causes PED, porn-induced erectile dysfunction.

On the other side of the debate, doctors such as David Ley have published books such as The Myth of Sex Addiction attacking the science and the pseudoscience offered up by these sources and arguing that: sex addiction is a a shell game, a game that is using smoke and mirrors to hide moral judgments and to deny personal responsibility.xii At the same time, pornography companies are increasingly profitable—one example of this is the $14.5 million purchase of the old San Francisco Armory by Kink.com, a company specializing in BDSM pornography, or the wild proliferation of ‘tube’ sites like YouPorn or RedTube that are increasingly getting into the porn business themselves.xiiiPornography use and acceptance is also increasingly widespread; a 2013 Gallup poll found that nearly half of Americans 18–34 years old found porn morally acceptable, compared to 19% among those 55 and older.xiv Additionally, pornography is becoming increasingly legitimized—2014 saw the first publication of the journal Porn Studies, which ran articles from a diverse array of fields. Whether the opinion is that increasing accessibility provided by various media technologies. . .[has made] pornographies of all kinds accessible to a wider range of audiences, or that evolution has not prepared your brain, pornography's detractors and supporters both claim that modern pornography marks a radical break from the past—this is not your daddy's Playboy.

But as the history of the word reveals, 'pornography' does have a history, albeit a relatively short and modern one of about a century and a half (1850 onwards). But this does not mean that obscene works never existed or were not understood as obscene—such a claim would be wrong, as the history of human perversity is as long as the history of the species. Instead, these earlier works were different. One example is the anti-Catholic caricatures of Louis Cranach in support of Martin Luther, which often depicted—graphically—the Pope as the 'Great Whore,' or the Whore of Babylon. Or even Luther's scatological jokes about the Pope. These pre-pornography works are just as capable of being as graphic, shocking, or titillating as modern-day PornHub videos, but they often integrated social, religious, or political critiques between sex scenes, or used erotic dialogue as a means of critiquing society at large. The earliest surviving forms of what might be considered pornography, by our modern eyes, circulated in private among elite, upper-class readers in manuscript format. In this format, for this audience, it was used to critique political figures, such as the King, or to cast suspicion on whether nuns and monks were really chaste, or to criticize the Catholic Church for its involvement in politics. It was only the advent of Gutenberg's printing press in 1436 that, as in so many other fields, changed everything.

The short answer to the question of 'why porn became bad’ is that the printing press made the reproduction of 'immoral' texts and images remarkably cheap and easy. When this was joined with increasing middle- and lower-class literacy, and book markets such as Holywell Street in London or the Grands-Boulevards area of Paris, it created a type of work that supposedly had an 'undesirable' effect upon the general population. Various European churches and states attempted to control this effect through moral reform and legal regulation. The short answer, however, does not capture the entire story. That is the purpose of this history.

The long answer touches on a variety of colorful characters who do not get their historical due: from the already-mentioned 'profane wit,' Rochester; to the Renaissance 'porn star' and 'Scourge of Princes,' Pietro Aretino; to the Divine Marquis de Sade; to the 'unspeakable' and flamboyant Edmund Curll (the first Hugh Hefner); and to tax-dodging street pornographers and radicals in the streets of London, Paris, Rome and Amsterdam. Featuring in this history too are the organizations that fought against their type: The Society for the Reformation of Manners, the Proclamation Society, the French, and English governments and their Kings and most famously, the Society for the Suppression of Vice. The long answer takes us to locations as far-flung as the hallowed halls of the Council of Trent where popes and cardinals fought over the future of the church, to a narrow alley in London filled with hack writers, aspiring poets, cheap bookstores, dirty drunks and aggressive prostitutes, lovingly and disgustingly referred to as Grub Street. It touches on the underside of Western culture, the history of sexuality, the creation of privacy (and public life), and the 'invention of manners.' It brings together, in one place, the history of Western culture's tortured and blissful relationship with erotic representation.

Over the past three decades, several historians have engaged with erotica/pornography as a field: in manuscript form (Ian Fredrick Moulton, Before Pornography; Lynn Hunt, The Invention of Pornography), in the seventeenth and eighteenth-century developments (the works of Julie Peakman, Sarah Toulalan and James Turner), in the events of the nineteenth-century that created obscene libel (Karen Harvey, Reading Sex; Bradford Mudge, The Whore’s Story), or by focusing on the events after the creation of the Obscene Publications Act of 1857 (Lisa Z. Sigel, Governing Pleasures, and too many others to name), or simply focusing on the history of visual pornography in Hollywood and elsewhere. But except for a few attempts in the 1960s (such as the Hyde and Ernst summary) there has been no attempt to aggregate these disparate perspectives into one text that that would serve as an introductory work and a textbook—until now.

This work originally began life as a Master’s Thesis in History and Culture at Drew University under Jonathan Rose, founder of The Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing. After it received the David Kohn award, I decided to expand it into a larger survey, and I began a six-month archive tour through England, France, Italy and the United States to track down primary sources, verify hunches and suspicions and to get a sense for the breadth and development of pornography as a genre. The original intention was to publish the book as a popular history through a trade press but, due to squeamishness over the subject matter as well as an academic focus and a refusal to sensationalize the material I decided to self-publish the text in March of 2016, and it managed to have popular success, including a number of interviews, lectures, and an appearance on the Conan O’Brien show. The text you are currently reading is an extensive academic re-write of the original text, along with the usual apparatus of footnotes and citations.

This study attempts to place and center erotic writing and pornography as a mode of discourse and a genre with a history, as too often ‘pornography’ gets treated as if it sprung fully-formed from the head of Zeus. I do this by breaking up the history into four separate parts, which roughly correspond with the type of story I am trying to tell here, which is an ideological move from the upper to the lower and then to the middle classes, as so far as it is possible to talk about classes and pornography. Geographically, the (hi)story begins in Florence with Boccaccio before traveling to Rome and Venice with Aretino and then over the Alps into Germany through Trent with Martin Luther and the counter-reformation and into France via Avignon with Pallavicino. We tarry there for a while to explore the foundational texts that were then carried over the English Channel to London by libertine figures such as Rochester and where pornography as such reached its most recognizably modern form.

The following chapters are divided into four separate sections, in a sort of hat tip to the progress of the erotic enumerated by Aretino and others. Part one, Foreplay, examines (from 1338 to 1644) the ‘prehistory’ of pornography in Renaissance erotic discourse as used by Boccaccio, Chaucer and others, until it was brought into its most realized form in the sixteenth century under Pietro Aretino, the ‘father’ of literary pornography. This carries us then into the radicalization of the form in the radical years following the Protestant Reformation and then the Catholic Counter-Reformation, where a sort of mildly erotic social, religious and political discourse/satire becomes religiously radicalized, dangerous, and subversive, literally to the point of Luther and his critics hurling shit at each other. Part two, Rising Action(s), examines (at a slower pace) the period of time between 1647 and 1740, which gave us the classics of literary pornography, if any works could be said to be pornographic classics. The School of Girls (L'escolle des filles), Chorier’s Aloysiæ Sigeæ Toletanæ satyra sotadica (Luisa Sigea Toledana's Sotadic satire, on the secrets of love and sex), and Rochester’s St. James Park and other poems. Though these works were still intended for mostly upper class readers, literacy and literature were becoming far more widespread, and the danger of the lower classes and (gasp) women and children reading them became abruptly recognized with the tidal wave of obscenity that Edmund Curll’s activities represented—resulting in the category of obscene libel.

Part three, Climax, delves into the so-called Golden Age of erotic/obscene libel from 1741 to 1857, which marks the creation of pornography as a regulatory category (the Obscene Publications Act) and the increasing widespread usage of the word itself. The Golden Age, so far as there was one, resulted in the works of the two greatest erotic writers, John Cleland and the Marquis de Sade and the resulting works of Fanny Hill and Justine/Juliette. These two of course stand out for the usual reasons of their insane popularity, but they also mark a key division in our story here, a key turning point or a before-and-after. Before Cleland and de Sade (and others of their time), erotic discourse or obscene libel is notable for its combination of social, religious or political critique/satire with erotic language or situations. Cleland’s Fanny Hill strips (pun possibly intended) all sort of even slightly dangerous criticism away from unadulterated eroticism, resulting in the most recognizably modern form of pornography. De Sade, however goes the other route and layers and heaps and nearly drowns his sexy material in critique of the church, the state, philosophy, love, culture—you name it. The two men’s different fates signal to their contemporaries and descendants what is possible and what is not—there are attempts to prosecute Cleland but he escapes unscathed, whereas de Sade would spend nearly the entirety of his life in prison either for libertine actions or libertine writings. The rest of this section details the explosion in erotic, porn-for-porn’s sake works that sprung up following Cleland, the types of works we normally think of when we think of Victorian and early literary pornography (though, in fact, it is late literary pornography in this timeline). Finally, Part Four, La Petite Mort/Futuumeshi, closes us out by bringing us, in a roughshod way, away from the out rightly erotic texts to the other works of literature that were threatened and damaged by a too-robust Obscene Publications Act, which included Havelock Ellis, James Joyce, E.M. Forester, Radclyffe Hall, and of course, D.H. Lawrence, which could be said to be the inheritors of the Sadean type or erotic critique or discourse. The closing section will examine the birth’ of Hollywood-style pornography through filmography and photography and how the current permissive conditions developed.

Throughout each of these sections, the development and back-and-forth of Western European (specifically British, but also French) histories of sexuality, marriage, the family, and privacy are explored in tandem as to fully contextualize the meaning of erotic works, obscene libel, and then pornography. From this I draw three primary conclusions: i) pornography is a creation of class conflict as much as anything can be, that is, it was something that the middle and working classes were prosecuted for, not the upper—it was perfectly acceptable for the ‘right’ audience to have access to this material; ii) erotic writing (and then obscene libel and pornography) function(s/ed) as a way to critique societal, political and religious figures, traditions and morality; and iii) the pendulum-swing between sexual restrictiveness and permissiveness, the action of libertine writers and the reaction of authorities or reformation societies is one of the most important macro-trends in history—there is no pornography without obscenity, no obscenity without erotica. Obscene books, plays, poetry, art, and engravings were the ones that created and shaped our modern ideas about the pornographic—the arrival of photography and film didn’t change anything. Indeed, photos and videos would follow the same path that books and poetry had decades and centuries earlier—only faster.

As suggested by the very definition of the word—the explicit description or exhibition of sexual subjects or activity in literature, painting, films, etc., in a manner intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic feelings—an aesthetic judgment is inseparable from the thing itself. As such, I am aware that my individual judgment of what is ‘extreme and obscene’ may be different from another’s—this definitional issue is prevalent throughout the field—but I have attempted to compensate for my judgment by focusing on works that aroused public controversy and criticism. This is not only because those works that created a particular splash or resulted in legal proceedings created more records and therefore more sources and material to work from, but also because they demonstrate the material that contemporaries found the most disturbing and therefore the most deserving of note or censorship.

In a recent work, Ian Moulton has strongly argued that to slap together the usual list of erotic libertine works (including many of the erotic works touched on in this research) into a canon of pornography creates a compelling but in some ways dubious teleology:

a movement towards modernity, the market, and the public sphere. They also arguably demonstrate an increasing focus on sexual activity as an end in itself, at times creating what Stephen Marcus has memorably called a ‘pornotopia’ in which sex has no relation to procreation, family, society, or politics, but exists only as a utopian source of physical delight: a fantasy world primarily structured to stimulate the masturbatory fantasies of heterosexual male readers. . . But libertine narrative constitutes only a part of early modern erotic writing as a whole. Not only were erotic texts written in a wide range of genres – verse satire, lyric poetry, epigrams, and drama, as well as dialogues and novels – their content went well beyond the limits of libertinism, if by libertinism we mean the celebration of rebellious elite masculine sexuality. xv

And I agree thoroughly, and have sought to reach into other fields and types of works that would not necessarily fall into the usual (hi)story of pornography—such as the works of Boccaccio, Martin Luther, Radclyffe Hall, and others. For me, pornography—beginning with Pietro Aretino—is made up of two competing trends or styles running alongside of and wrapped up inside of each other that eventually diverge. One is the motive of social, religious, and political critique that I have identified as being a distinguishing feature of early erotic discourse, obscenity, and reaches perhaps its highest form in the scathing and blistering works of the Marquis de Sade (and of course, survived in other formats beyond him). The other is the purely sexual, commercial, reader-arousal motive that perhaps reaches its finest form in the work of John Cleland, various Victorian scribblers, and the backalley photographic and Hollywood visual distributors. The cases and examples picked here are indeed small or singular examples, especially in light of the tidal wave of erotic material produced from the middle of the nineteenth century onwards, but these examples are selected because the impact that they had.

I have attempted throughout this text to use three different words for the material covered —erotica, obscenity, and pornography—to refer to three distinct phases in the development of pornography. Generally speaking, I use the word erotica or erotic literature to refer to material from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, publications that combined the erotic with social, religious and political criticism. Obscene literature and its formulations refers, generally, to the period of time between the British publisher Edmund Curll (who I identify as a key figure in this history) to the passing of the British Obscene Publications Act in 1857. I have tried to use the word pornography where I am injecting modern judgment or in describing post-Act works. However, there are several places where the word overlaps for stylistic or readability purposes. In addition, this story is as much a (his)story as it is a history—just as most of our surviving sources from the past are written by men, for men, and with a male audience in mind, pornography and obscenity is more aggressively so. While some historians have pointed out that we can’t rule out female readership (especially in the late 1700’s and beyond—with one exception in the 1600s, where a group of maids in the French royal court were discovered with a bad book) it is much harder to document and trace than male involvement, consumption and production of pornography and obscene works. But I have tried to do my best to address both contemporary and modern ideas in the pages that follow. Any mistakes are my own.

Part I: Foreplay

(1338-1644)

2

1338 – 1556: Arentine and Tridentine

Perverted Humanists

WE BEGIN our history where the modern world is so often said to have been born—the Italian Renaissance, the great rebirth and flourishing of European humanism after the (not so) dark centuries of the Dark Ages. That is a tautology as much as it is inaccurate, and has been remarkably disrupted by recent scholarship and scholars of the Middle Ages that have shown just how vibrant, colorful and alive the era was, and how much this vibrancy helped contribute to the Italianate outpouring that would later be called the Renaissance. There were of course many erotic works that circulated among small groups and communities during the Middle Ages, but the main reason we are beginning with the Renaissance is because it is necessary to talk about the cultural and philosophical reasons, as well as the technological ones, that helped to contribute to 'pornography' as a genre.xvi

Italy at the time of the Renaissance was not the country of Italy that we know today—after the collapse of the Roman Empire and the prolonged breakup of the post-classical era, the peninsula had settled into several powerful city-states, from the Duchy of Milan and Republic of Venice in the north to the Church-ruled ‘theocracy’ of the Papal States in the peninsular heart, to the Kingdom of Naples (and Sicily) in the south. The various powers were locked in a perpetual state of rivalry, backstabbing and shifting alliances that caused political headaches but spurred economic and cultural competition. By far the most significant in the cultural realm (for our discussion here) was the Kingdom of Florence under the Medici banking family. Over the course of decades, the Medicis almost single-handedly ignited the Renaissance, giving birth and sponsorship to many of the giants of Western culture—Leonardo da Vinci, Donatello, Fra Angelico, Michelangelo, and Galileo. But before all of them, came Giovanni Boccaccio—the man that laid the fields that would bear such fruit, one of would be pornography in its earliest forms.

More specifically, came The Decameron. The Decameron has a long history of catching unprepared readers and underprepared undergraduates who are shocked (shocked, I say!) to discover such an early and respectable author dealing with such 'taboo' subjects. Although Boccaccio's book is not usually labeled as 'pornography,' it remains important as a starting point for us, both for how it would go on to influence Pietro Aretino, and as an example of a pre-Aretine humanist work that utilized erotic discourse without any significant blowback.

Put simply, Renaissance humanism was the belief that the present world of living people deserved as much attention as the future world of lost or saved souls.xvii Although this idea doesn't seem terribly radical today, at the time it was a revolutionary idea in a culture that was very much focused on the afterlife. The fact that this idea doesn't seem all that insane is a testament to how successful humanism was as a philosophy. In actual practice, humanism was a study of the legacy of Roman and Greek antiquity that concerned itself with the rediscovery, restoration, retranslation and reinterpretation of them. As scholars have pointed out, it ranged from archeological digs to uncover of dusty scrolls in monasteries and attics, but it comes to pervade almost all areas of post-medieval culture, including theology, philosophy, political thought, jurisprudence, medicine, mathematics and the creative arts. . . And in this way it was to become the embodiment of, and vehicle for, that very classical tradition that is the most fundamental aspect of the continuity of European cultural and intellectual history. xviii

Humanists (lead by the Florentine poet Petrarch) opposed a school of thought known as scholasticism, which had dominated Christian and European thinking throughout the Middle Ages.xix They argued that it created scholars secluded in their libraries, quibbling over abstract theology like how many angels could fit on a pinhead, or if God could create a boulder he could not lift. Instead, the humanists argued, education should create a citizen (that is, upper-class white male citizens) trained in the skills that would enable them to lead others in pursuit of public and moral good. They rejected theology and educational hierarchy and exegesis, instead advocating for people to look at ‘the text itself,’ and to use vernacular (common) languages over Latin or Greek. Humanism was primarily tied to northern Italianate (especially Florentine) and urban elites, where the need for well-educated secular civil servants and bureaucrats was the strongest.

In this, they were inspired by the Greek idea that the human should be the center and measure of all things, like in Leonardo da Vinci's famous Vitruvian Man diagram. In the eyes of humanists, Mr. Vitruvian should, from a young age, study ancient Greek and Roman texts on rhetoric, philosophy, history, grammar and poetry, which would teach him humanitatis, or the humanities. The result would be a citizen imbued with the Roman virtue of dedication to the common good of society—which humanists believed was consistent with the Gospel and was the hallmark of the devout Christian. In theory at least, the Humanist ideal was directed not so much at clerics and the upper classes, but to laymen (and everymen like Mr. Vitruvian) who spent their lives 'in the world.' Boccaccio was a perfect example of this: after convincing his father to let him study Church law at what would become the University of Naples, he would also spend much of his free time studying literature and then go on to writing poetry, which he considered his true vocation.

As a result, education in the humanist style became a powerful instrument for the reform of the church and of society. And humanists justifiably felt that a reform of the church and society was desperately needed. Under popes such as Alexander VI and Julius II, the papacy and the church had become corrupt; used as a means for personal and family profit over the Christian ideals of charity and poverty. Pope Alexander VI, for example, ignored the rule of clerical celibacy, both keeping mistresses in the Vatican and legitimizing the children he had by them. His successor, Julius II, also fathered illegitimate children and became known as the 'Warrior Pope' for leading armies across Italy —in contempt of such commandments as 'thou shalt not kill.' The abuses of the church extended far beyond Rome and the Curia: in fact, the ecclesiastical system was abused from the top down: The most obvious was the absence of Bishops from their dioceses. . . . The same holds true for pastors of parishes. . .superstition and ignorance of the basic tenets of Christianity were. . .rampant.xx In answer, reformers and satirists launched regular attacks on the church the gluttonous monk, lecherous friar, and gullible priest became commonplace stereotypes in literature of the time. The reason I emphasize

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