Thomas Arthur Schaefer

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Pale Formations In Ceiling Tile

Just got my vintage 1st edition copies of 'An Unhurried View of Erotica' by Ralph Ginzburg. I have (2) versions as you can see below. The 'Limited Edition' and the 'Connoisseur's Edition'. In a previous post I was talking about the (4) issues of EROS that Ginzberg had published, which had him brought up on obscenity charges. 'An Unhurried View of Erotica' is interesting for historical perspective in how far things have come in the past fifty years than for its actual subject matter... which is a brief survey of erotic literature then available only to serious researchers with access to collections that were otherwise kept from public view. In this book Ginzberg draws the parallel between witchcraft and obscenity, that society now pursues the same shameful action against erotica as it once did against the supposed representatives of the devil.


At the time when I read newspaper reports of the California libel trial of a magazine that published lurid material about the sex-life of movie stars, my train of thoughts ran to memories of Vienna of my youth. I realized only later on that I must have compared the mental attitude of my native town to sexuality with that of Hollywood because a scene from one of Arthur Schnitzler's plays came to mind. A young man about town encounters a lady of his acquaintanceship: "I have heard many bad things about you, madame," he says. "Let me hope that they are true."

There was as much interest in and gossip about the affairs of heart and plain affairs of celebrities in Vienna as in Hollywood. The satirist Karl Kraus stated that a man taking a walk with a woman on the Ringstrasse was, so to speak, automatically considered her lover. When he was seen walking with a male friend he was considered a homosexual and when he walked alone, the Viennese were convinced that he was a masturbator.

There was enough gossip, mostly allusive and often witty, but there was, of course, no magazine-publicity nor scandal-gathering agency. There was not that lip-smacking, self-conscious and impudent vicarious enjoyment, not that hypocritical moral indignation. There was not that atmosphere of latent puritanism that sees sex as something sinful and rejoices in discovering that other people have sexual functions and desires.

Rumors were not taken with a grain of salt, but of sugar and sexual matters were treated casually, if not jokingly. The Viennese shared the conviction of old, wise Anatole France who then wrote that of all sexual aberrations chastity is the strangest.

This little book deals with the universal interest the Anglo-Saxons had and have in all aspects of sex in a surprising manner. It shows the powerful under-current of pornography that runs faithfully with the great stream of literature. It follows the erotic trend that moves under the surface of literature from its beginning of the Anglo-Saxon Exeter Book until the pornographic works of our time. The author will readily admit that his book about the erotica in England and America is fragmentary and incomplete, but who can register all the waves of that unending stream?

It is certainly unnecessary in this age of psycho-analysis to state that this book has great scientific value. It shows which components of sexuality and which disavowed impulses strive for satisfaction and which appeal to the appetite of the average man (and woman) of America and England. The excerpts from erotic literature and the data here collected present valuable contributions not only to sexology, but also to the exploration of the life of unconscious emotions. The material here presented will be of great interest to the psychologist and psychiatrist, to the sociologist and historian of civilization and last, but not least, to the connoisseur of literature. Also the bibliophile will find many data, unknown to all, about publications and collections of erotica.

The attentive and thoughtful reader of this book will find that it touches serious problems between its lines, problems intimately connected with the situation of our civilization. If erotica exercises such a passionate spell and awakens such general interest, can we still say "ugly as sin"? It seems sin is very attractive to most, if not to all of us. If it were as repulsive and ugly as they say, why should so many and forceful prohibitions be necessary?

The author justifiably includes the scatological interest in the area of erotica. The discoveries of psychoanalysis and of analytic child-psychology leave no doubt that the functions of evacuation are not only biologically but also psychologically intimately connected with those of sexuality. Yes, in early childhood they cannot be differentiated. Also in the neuroses and psychoses they can replace those of genital trends.

John Wesley's saying that cleanliness is next to godliness becomes very debatable when we find that dirt often functions as excellent protection of virtue that is endangered. Freud told us, his Viennese circle, a telling epigram of Brouardet whose lectures he attended in 1885 when he was a student of Charcot in Paris. Brouardet demonstrated at the Morgue on corpses many parts of neglected evidence, interesting to the physician. He discussed the clues by which one could conjecture the social position and character of unknown persons found dead. Freud heard him once say: "Les genoux sales sont les signes d'une fille honnĂȘte." Dirty knees are characteristics of a "nice" girl! Should cleanliness thus be more akin to vice than to virtue? No doubt, the godliness of some saints smelled to high heaven.

We welcome this courageous book that presents a valuable piece of conscientious research.

New York, September, 1957

BARKER - Pepto-Bismol Varient 11 (4x6 postcard)

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