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Ce lieu de délices: Art and Imitation in the French Libertine Cabinet

Paul J. Young, Georgetown University

Volume 20, no. 3, Spring 2008

©McMaster University, 2015. All articles published on the Eighteenth-Century Fiction website are protected by copyright held by Eighteenth-Century Fiction, a journal published by the Faculty of Humanities at McMaster University.


This article examines the role of the cabinet (a space akin to the boudoir) in eighteenth-century French architecture, as it is presented in the period’s architectural treatises, as well as in three widely read libertine texts: Godard d’Aucour’s Thémidore (1744), La Morlière’s Angola (1746), and Vivant Denon’s Point de lendemain (1777, 1812). An analysis of the role that this “lieu de délices” plays in the libertine tale provides a more significant understanding of the nature of libertine eroticism, as this space underscores the complex relationship between art, imitation, and desire as it is expressed in ancien régime literature. The cabinet’s function as a “supplement” to pleasure highlights the importance that eighteenth-century writers accorded to taste, luxury, and even décor as essential for creating or maintaining pleasure. This supplemental role also demonstrates the complex and tenuous role of the body in libertine eroticism, and suggests that art, in the libertine text, may serve to mask or compensate for the body’s insufficiencies.

Other ECF articles on the topic of “Libertinism” include:

Shocked Sensibility: The Nerves, the Will, and Altered States in Sade’s L’Histoire de Juliette
by SEAN QUINLAN (ECF 25.3, Spring 2013)

Rétif, Sade, and the Origins of Pornography: Le Pornographe as Anti-Text of La Philosophie dans le boudoir
by AMY S. WYNGAARD (ECF 25.2, Winter 2012-13)

Communal Sexuality: Mutual Pleasure in Sade’s La Philosophie dans le boudoir
by KATE PARKER (ECF 25.2, Winter 2012-13)

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