The Great War, Pornography, and the Violated Social Body

Carolyn J. Dean

in The Frail Social Body

Published by University of California Press

Published in print February 2000 | ISBN: 9780520219953
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520923485 | DOI:
The Great War, Pornography, and the Violated Social Body

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)


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This chapter examines how interwar critics used pornography to dramatize the unprecedented violence of World War I, suggesting that “pornography” represented a fantasy about the destruction of the body and psyche which metaphorically linked the trauma of the individual male soldier to collective cultural trauma. In so doing, it participates in an ongoing historical discussion about how postwar France coped with wartime trauma by focusing on a little-known and yet extensive discussion about pornography that intersects with all kinds of discussions about postwar efforts to redeem masculinity. The chapter explores fantasies about the seductive powers of violence and efforts to define and combat those forces, rather than patriotic discourse per se. These fantasies about pornography emerged in the wake of the Great War, when social commentators and analysts began to postulate a significant link between the wartime proliferation of pornography and the unprecedented violence of modern combat. Only then did pornography and violence become continuous descriptions of assaults on the integrity of the human body.

Keywords: France; World War I; violence; pornography; trauma; fantasies; human body; psyche; masculinity

Chapter.  8414 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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