Cloth $60.00 ISBN: 9780226243207 Published April 2004
Paper $28.00 ISBN: 9780226243214 Published April 2004

Pornography, the Theory

What Utilitarianism Did to Action

Frances Ferguson

Pornography, the Theory
Bookmark and Share

Frances Ferguson

208 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2004
Cloth $60.00 ISBN: 9780226243207 Published April 2004
Paper $28.00 ISBN: 9780226243214 Published April 2004
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, Frances Ferguson here 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.
Samantha Brennan | Victorian Studies
"The contribution [Ferguson] makes to the understanding of human actions and the social structure in which they occur makes this well worth reading."
Leo Bersani, author of The Culture of Redemption
“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.”<Leo Bersani, author of The Culture of Redemption
Mary Poovey, author of A History of the Modern Fact
“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.”<Mary Poovey, author of A History of the Modern Fact
Michelle Chilcoat | Journal of the History of Sexuality
"As a post-Foucauldian reconceptualization of utilitarianism, social organization, power distribution, and the conditions of equality, [the book] makes an original contribution to the fields of the history of sexuality, pornography studies, and studies in the novel but also, perhaps, to political theory."
1. Pornography: The Theory
2. Justine, or The Law of the Road
3. Eugénie, or Sade and the Pornographic Legacy
4. Emma, or Happiness (or Sex Work)
5. Connie, or The Lawrentian Woman
Patrick: An Epilogue
For more information, or to order this book, please visit
Google preview here

Chicago Manual of Style |

Chicago Blog: Literature

Events in Literature

Keep Informed

JOURNALs in Literature