Sex, Literature and Censorship
August 2001, Polity
He begins with a polemical and witty attack on the spurious
radicalism of some fashionable academic theories about desire and
sexual dissidence. Dollimore then examines the ways in which the
media, literary critics and the state, as well as these literary
theorists, all deny or repress the disturbing and dangerous
knowledge conveyed by literature.
His own account of the volatile connections between aesthetics,
desire, politics and censorship unfolds through topics such as
homosexuality, bisexuality, sexual disgust, and the disturbing
relations between art and inhumanity, and through brilliant
insights into a wide range of authors including Euripides,
Shakespeare, Tennyson and Yeats.
Most persistently, this book is about how the experience of
desire in life and art compromises our most cherished ethical
beliefs. If this helps make art irresistible and of indispensable
value, it follows too that there are reasonable grounds for wanting
to censor it.
This compelling and accessibly written book will be essential reading for students and scholars of literary, gender and cultural studies, and will have a major impact on debates about art, sexuality, censorship and the role of the intellectual.
Part I: Desire and Theory.
Chapter 1: ' Too Hot For Yale'? The Challenge of Queer Theory.
Chapter 2: The New Bisexuality.
Chapter 3: Wishful Theory.
Chapter 4: Sexual Disgust .
Part II: Dangerous Knowledge.
Chapter 5: Daemonic Desires.
Chapter 6: Dangers Within.
Part III: Desire and Art.
Chapter 7: Those Who Love Art the Most Also Censor it the Most.
Chapter 8: Critical Wars and Academic Censors.
Chapter 9: Shakespeare at the Limits of Political Criticism.
Chapter 10: The Aesthetic Attraction of Fascism.
Chapter 11: Desire: Art Against Philosophy?.
* A brilliant contribution to the political criticism of literature and to theories of sexuality
* A compelling and accessible exploration of the disturbing power of literature
‘No one grasps more fully than Jonathan Dollimore the
challenges, evasions and deceptions in the volatile theorizing of
identity and desire, past and present. His brilliant, theoretical
synthesis combines with graphic experiential and literary analysis
to render Sex, Literature and Censorship never less than
enthralling. Erudite, provocative and delightful to read, what more
could he do for us?' Lynne Segal, author of Why
‘Jonathan Dollimore's Sex, Literature and
Censorship continues his remarkably resonant inquiry into the
darker, defiant regions of the creative imagination. The ethical
aim of critical thinking, Dollimore provocatively suggests,
requires us to intervene in the corporate consensus of the culture
industry, and to resist the pedagogical etiquette of academia. He
argues that we must explore the daemonic power of those subjects
and objects that offend our tastes and traditions. We applaud and
oppose him, following the dialectical destiny of dissidence to
which he has skilfully introduced us.' Homi K. Bhabha, Harvard
'[A] feverish, political polemic.' Steven Poole, The
'Dollimore speaks an important truth when he suggests that some
of the most compelling literature, past and present, hinges on the
tension between, if not the incompatibility of, "the ethical
conscience and the creative imagination".' The
'Looking at the contradictions of identity-based sexual politics
movements, [Dollimore] examines the ethics of knowledge and
practice that circulate around ideas of danger - dangers to the
self, dangerous knowledge - connecting these with questions posed
by art as a site of danger in itself.' Radical
'Sex, Literature, and Censorship is a book worth reading;
it says provocative things we will ponder long after setting it
down' Times Literary Supplement
'Biographical and autobiographical anecdote are one of the chief amusements of this book. Dollimore tells us of his first gay affair, his subsequent relationship with a woman, his particular sexual preferences. It is calculated to shock, performing the dissidence it preaches. Indeed, if I have criticism of the book, it is that it has nothing to say about the tenderness of sexual desire, but that probably reveals precisely how unradical i am.' Times Higher Education Supplement