The Literature of Sexual Worldliness under the Restoration
Œuvres galantes, erotic but not sexually explicit works of broadly satirical character, were published, sold, and often set within a very special space: the Palais-Royal in Paris, a sexual and economic enclave in which the lowest rungs of the literary trade rubbed shoulders with rampant prostitution and illegal gambling. This real place generated a significant cultural mythology in which the Palais-Royal became the symbol of an alternative moral universe in which sex was constantly, freely available. The chapter traces the works’ inheritance from eighteenth-century libertinism: a focus on scenes of initiation and education, and a playful, non-procreative conception of sexuality. If the works propose a version of these themes that has been shorn of their aristocratic associations, they also react against the tyranny of bourgeois family values embodied in the liberal political discourse of the age, by celebrating promiscuity and denouncing the monotony of marriage.
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