"Before Pornography" explores the relationship between erotic writing, masculinity and national identity in Renaissance England. Drawing on both manuscripts and printed texts, and incorporating insights from modern feminist theory and queer studies, the book argues that pornography is a historical phenomenon: while the representation of sexuality exists in nearly all cultures, pornography does not. The book includes analyses of the social significance of eroticism in such canonical texts as "Sidney's Defense of Poetry," "Spenser's Faerie Queene," and the "Dialogues of Pietro Aretino."
Praise for this book
This is emphatically an important book, valuable both as a useful addition to the expanding field of Renaissance studies of sexuality and gender, and as a significant contribution to a key area of debate in contemporary culture ... Moulton has written a serious and sensitive study of a difficult subject and he has done so with much wit and grace, not to mention scholarship and substance.
In this brilliant, provocative book Ian Moulton makes an original contribution to our understanding of the history of erotic representation. This history has remained largely unexplored, Moulton persuasively argues, because we have tended to classify erotic writing from the past under the modern rubric of pornography.