Fanny Hill or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure

John Cleland, Fanny Hill or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure – e-book

Read from  January 23rd to 27th 2014

My rating : 1/5 stars


There is a saying – Curiosity killed the cat. I learned about this 18th century porn while reading David Lodge’s Modes of Modern Writing, and of course it aroused my interest regarding both the language and the approach of a subject I had thought until then too daring for a prude period. It seems I was wrong and all that prudeness we know about is due to 19th century, mainly Victorian period. So, for one of most banished books in history (as Wikipedia informs us) Fanny Hill is not even very revolutionary.

However, with all the fuss around it, the main question one might ask is about Fanny Hill literary traits.  In the same study, David Lodge says:

"Pornography I define as a type of discourse designed to be used as a substitute for or stimulus to erotic pleasure. (…) Like other types of nonliterary discourse (advertising, polemic etc.) pornography can become literary if it responds successfully to a literary reading. What usually prevents it from doing so is that it is unrealistic rather than nonrealistic: it pretends to a realism it cannot sustain."

 Therefore, to answer the above question, it seems the more a text has porn qualities, the less likely it is to have literary ones. Let’s see in our book:

 -very virile men with huge penises– check

-very sensual women with perfect bodies– check;

-perfect orgasms every time– check;

-erotic fantasies presented in a realistic way – check;

--detailed description of the progress of excitement – check;

-explicit language – not-so-check, but  touchingly euphemistic, though J;

-pretty-woman-like finale – check.

So, from what I can tell (although my knowledge of this kind of reading is limited to a few bad romances and Fifty Shades of Gray J) this could be considered a sort of old-fashioned porn, amusing and often involuntary parodic and even sweet in some kinky way. A curiosity, a useful document in the history of porn (there must be a history  of porn, surely?), but of course, not literature in the same way Fifty Shades of Gray is not literature.

 To conclude, I’m not sorry I read it (in spite of my introductory line) but it didn’t feel like reading literature (and at some point it bored me so much I skipped many “hot” pages). I was amused by the moralistic finale, though, so contrary to the obvious message that you can have the cake and eat it too. In porn land, I mean.

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