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Scholarly works look at history, culture, pain and arousal

Tues. 27 Mar. 2018

A friend of mine, when visiting not too long ago, brought with him a selection of his books. They were new acquisitions, so he was keen to show them to me. I was indeed interested, as I’m sure you’ll understand when I elaborate on their nature.

Firstly, a good place to start is revealing their titles, four titles to be exact: In Praise of the Whip: A Cultural History of Arousal; Sex With Shakespeare. Here’s Much To Do With Pain, But More With Love; A History of the Rod; and The Art of Discipline: A Pictorial History of the Smacked Bottom.

In Praise of the Whip: A Cultural History of Arousal is by Niklaus Largier, a Swiss academic. This book was first published in Germany in 2001 and then in English translation by Zone Books in America in 2007 and distributed in the English-speaking world by MIT Press, the publishing arm of the very prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (consistently rated in the top three universities in the world). Largier is Professor of German and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley; he is a distinguished scholar, having in 2015 received a five-year research award from the Humboldt Foundation in Germany. I must say his interests are wide-ranging and somewhat astounding, not to mention fascinating. His profile for the Department of German on the UC Berkeley website states that “His more recent books explore the relation between bodily ascetic practices (in particular flagellation), eroticism, and the literary imagination”.

Sex With Shakespeare. Here’s Much To Do With Pain, But More With Love is by Jillian Keenan. This is a memoir that relates self discovery in the personal sphere with Shakespeare’s plays – an unusual cultural interplay. My friend whose books these are has been in personal contact with Ms Keenan.

A History of the Rod is somewhat self-explanatory, and the book’s cover confirms it’s nature. My friend is a committed spanker and is something of a scholar of the art.

The Art of Discipline: A Pictorial History of the Smacked Bottom. This is, according to the publisher, “the most comprehensive collection of disciplinary art ever published in a single volume”. I can certainly testify to the extensive collection of imagery the editors and publishers of this volume have put together; I particularly liked the historical images produced several centuries ago, especially the religious-themed ones – monks spanking nuns and the like... AKS Books is the publisher of this book, the ones also responsible for a book documenting the life and times of one Mrs Walter Smith, Bristol school mistress and flogger extraordinaire of the 1880s; and yes, the same friend of mine is the owner of this biography of our good Mrs Smith (see my article from last year, A piece of Bristol’s history from 1890: ‘Girl-flogging in England’; I will be following up on this shortly, as I have visited Mrs Smith’s former house in Clifton, West Bristol).

If you can get hold of any of these books... happy reading!

Mistress Geo