Encyclopedia of Erotic Literature

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Author: Michael R. Finn
Date: July 2008
From: The Modern Language Review(Vol. 103, Issue 3)
Publisher: Modern Humanities Research Association
Document Type: Book review
Length: 1,034 words
Lexile Measure: 1270L

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Encyclopedia of Erotic Literature. Ed. by GAETAN BRULOTTE and JOHN PHILLIPS. New York and London: Routledge. 2006. 2 vols: xli + 104 [index] + 1468 pp. $375; 225 [pounds sterling]. ISBN 978-1-57958-441-2 (set).

In our era of acute interest in the sexual, this encyclopaedia will necessarily become a basic reference work for all those interested in the history and current state of erotic literature, this in spite of slipshod editorial work that at times leaves the reader giddy. The two-volume work is certainly broad-ranging (entries from Abelard to Welsh erotic literature), though contributions relating to French literature outnumber any other because, say the editors, 'French and Francophone writers have contributed more than any other linguistic culture to the development of the erotic genre' (I, p. x). This is no doubt true, but the 'French fact' poses an unforeseen problem, as will be seen below.

The 546 entries are the work of over 400 scholars. The introduction attempts to seek clarity in the debate between what constitutes the erotic, the pornographic, and the obscene. In the end, the editors opt sensibly for an approach that includes any work in which 'sex talk' is the dominant discourse. There are four categories of entry: (a) individual listings for writers and for some single works; (b) historical overviews (by language, geography, or cultural area); (c) literary surveys (e.g. addressing genres); and (d) topics and themes (e.g. necrophilia). A 104-page index is a sophisticated navigation tool, and two tables of contents, alphabetical and thematic, are printed helpfully, like the index, in each volume....

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A181463685