Philosophy In The Bedroom: Subversion and the Marquis de Sade’s Impossible School of Libertinage



(c) Dillington House; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
By Peter Lely, BBC Paintings [1] Public Domain
 Rachid M’Rabty


Readdressing the value and impact of the controversial ‘libertine’ writings of Donatien Alphonse Fran François, Marquis de Sade (1740—1814) is the subject of this investigation. While the term ‘Sadean’ is now common in the cultural imagination, conjuring the grotesque – freakish, bizarre, abhorrent – and extreme images of sex and violence, the man himself was an especially confounding and controversial figure – even by the standards of the Eighteenth-Century French aristocratic elite. Avoiding being weighed down by his personal criminal and degenerate reputation; I instead insist in the following that our focus on Sade respond only to his works and fictions, and in particular, Philosophy in the Bedroom.[1] As Georges Bataille confirms, there is no more fruitless task than to take Sade at his word, or to read him literally.[2] In response, this paper casts any lingering inclination towards realism or the literal aside, confronting Sade’s novel as I believe we must, as a darkly fantastic, highly satirical and subversive satires of political, philosophical and existential transgression that undermines any pre-existing moral presuppositions as a baseless fallacy. In doing so, I elaborate on a philosophical/ethical position of absolute negation and rejection of establishment values which is eerily familiar when read against our twenty-first century western culture that so readily fails to live up to our defining moral propensity for optimism.

For Albert Camus, Sade may well have been ‘the first theoretician of absolute rebellion’, his writings indicative of his standing as the archetypal political rebel and early nihilistic propagator, in which he articulated a ‘monstrous dream’ and materialist vision of humanity acting out their nature.[3] Bataille describes Sade as ‘a monster, obsessed by the idea of an impossible liberty’, and Attarian describes him as a nihilistic writer of ‘demonic genius’, whose works of literature ‘presented for the first time, a philosophy of nihilism, and illustrated all its evil consequences and implications’.[4] While the task of measuring the extent of the ‘evil’ and its consequences within the fiction of Sade is an interesting and fraught proposition, both do intricately describe a writer who is complex, confounding and unsettling to read. Sadean literary transgression pushes ‘the boundaries of what is humanly/inhumanly’ possible, to ascertain a sexual or affirmative gratification and admonish religious, political and social authority via a violent and horrific fascination with the obscene.[5]

Of Sade’s vast corpus of work, which ranges from his letters, theatre, short Gothic fictions, historical novels and pamphlets, it is his openly libertine novels which are routinely held in critical regard as the most overtly ‘authentic’ of his writings.[6] Throughout his ‘libertine’ texts,[7] Sade pushed the ‘politically and socially subversive possibilities of pornography to their furthest possible extreme’ to annihilate any presupposed belief in limits (be those the limits of behaviour, or religious and secular pragmatism, and of course, of the human body itself) in search of a new form of radicalism or otherness.[8] His literature, I argue, consequently demonstrates a value – in speculative terms, rather than in literal terms – for horrific excess as a motivating political and subjective factor undermining convention, and re-establishing the individual as apart and free from oppressive establishment values, taboos and morals. Rather than the simple breaking of laws, then, the acts committed by the Sadean literary figures throughout Philosophy resist and bypass arbitrary tensions of good and evil, right and wrong, legal and illegal. In doing so, they importantly take a spiteful stand to establish their own society of libertinage, premised on the primacy of desire and its fulfilment at whatever cost.

Sade’s literary reputation has been subject of fierce debate over the years, revered and chastised, his literature supposedly demonstrates his influential status as nihilist, sexologist, psychopathologist, revolutionary, conservative, ethicist and even feminist.[9] Simone de Beauvoir famously recovers and positions Sade at the forefront of modern Western critical thought in her influential essay, ‘Must We Burn Sade?’ Herein, de Beauvoir argues that despite his obvious flaws, Sade deserves some credit for his courageous and aggressive critical exposure of the self-interest and hypocrisy underlying modern intellectual thought and politics.[10] Angela Carter, also, vociferously redeems the feminine in Sade’s writings arguing that Sade – subverting a cultural inclination to shelter and control its women –liberated his female libertine characters. In a move to be lauded, Sade foregrounded female sexual desire and the propensity for deviance and violence, transgressing the commonly held presumption at the time of a woman’s submissive, repressed role as little else than mother or daughter.[11] His writing has also contributed to a noticeable shift from a classical to a modern intellectual epoch in his man-centred materialism, in the pre-empting of themes which would occupy the likes of Freud, such as the foregrounding of unconscious desires and an early engagement with Freud’s latterly dubbed ‘pleasure principle’, and forthright rejection of Religion as the moral and existential compass. As a thematically ‘modern’ writer in much of the sense, Sade’s fiction examined subjects who had turned from God (and even in the Nietzschean sense ‘killed’ him) and who instead look inward, foregrounding the fraught condition of the human subject and in doing so, certain factions in criticism have long since lauded him as ‘one of the first powerful voices of a secular and ultimately more democratic modern world.’[12] Sade’s literature offered a model of ‘integrat[ing] the subterranean and the aboveground, often using sexuality as a carnality as a meeting place between the two’.[13] His influence on literature since the Eighteenth-century is pronounced, with satirists and transgressive authors since, particularly, demonstrating a certain Sadean continuity in their integration of the acceptable and the unacceptable, their mistrust and scepticism towards authority and grand narratives and their ‘liberal’ approach to violence.

Today, as failing establishment politics are increasingly under threat by right-wing populism, violent fundamentalism and the increasing failure of our political groups to secure and promote liberal values, it is I think necessary to reconsider Sade’s satirical, fantastical and horrific libertine novel, Philosophy, which achieves what is so often lacking in intellectual and radical discourses. As Barthes states, the Sadean text:

forms the basis of a social autarchy. Once shut in, the libertines, their assistants, and their subjects form a total society, endowed with an economy, a morality, a language, and a time articulated into schedules, [labours], and celebrations. Here, as elsewhere, the enclosure permits the system, i.e., the imagination.[14]

Sade’s fiction articulates and explores the highly speculative, if not altogether impossible, fantasy of absolute negation and abandon of morality, the establishment and the political to invigorate a sense of purpose to human life, which is otherwise rendered as a nullity. Sade wrote in the shadow of the French Revolution, wherein revolutionary and anti-establishment ideals were being violently pursued and the oppressed revolted against a self-serving, conspiratorial elite.[15] Sade’s speculative experiments in grotesque and subversive free-thinking seem particularly timely today, capturing a spirit of radical and rebellious energy that many crave within our own period of increasing social and political upheaval, mounting discontent and vitriol against governing elites, and the threat of politically and economically motivated fundamentalist terror and violence. Extracting a philosophy of political and subjective pessimism from Sade is necessary, firstly because within a cultural landscape of increasing cynicism and discontent towards ruling elites and the intellectual, neoliberal values that sustain our western societies, the desire for an alternative which reinvigorates our sense of existential satisfaction is ever more pronounced. Phillips highlights that the importance of Sade’s Philosophy is that it displaces philosophy ‘from the mind to the body’, and in doing so secures a political gravity and impact in the offending, transgressive bodies.[16] The result being, that within Sade’s novel, the speculative pursuit of an existential and ‘ethical’ alternative is confounded in, and firmly linked to, a dark and grotesque fantasy of political subversion and subjective admonishment.


Philosophy presents the story of the teenager, Eugénie’s ‘education’ in libertine practice and philosophy by a willing and despicable combination of both Madame De Saint-Ange, and the renowned libertine Dolmancé. As with so much art, whose intention it is to shock their audience, to challenge the complacencies and coordinates of their moral limits, we must look beyond the detestable aesthetics evoked by the transgressive and horrific literature of Sade. Instead, to gain anything meaningful from the reading of Sade’s fantasies, we must be attentive to the intellectual disregard and subversion of morals that take place, and consider the speculative justification that Sade’s characters posit in their quest for pleasure through pain.

Sade’s contribution to both Eighteenth-century and contemporary thought and literature is to be found in the theoretical and critical implications of his literature’s transgression. Sade’s contribution towards transgressive thought and literature reflects his status as both ‘a rebel and an iconoclast’, that is, as someone unafraid to speak out against establishment authority and religious doctrine, and against the ‘entrenched and oppressive theism of his society and the threat posed by the concept of a deity to intellectual freedom’.[17] While rape, murder, urophilia, coprophilia and mutilation are far from conventional models to guide the fantasies of revolutionary thinker, Sade’s libertine mentors and their protégé confront each throughout without abandon in their determination to undermine social and cultural limits. In Philosophy, he launches his protagonists into scenarios wherein taboos are transgressed to extremity as a pathway towards, and demonstration of individual freedom, counter to and in spite of all that is political and theocratic. In the introduction to Justine, Phillips further emphasises this, arguing that Sade’s darkly transgressive literature:

[F]earlessley explores the darker side of human nature, from which most of us would prefer to avert our gaze: the objectification of human beings, the utter selfishness of lust, the tyranny of an ego unfettered by laws or lacking the humanizing influences of socialization. Sade’s exposure of the sexual motive that frequently lies behind human corruption and crime, of sexual sadism that drives so much violence in human history, is a valuable message that bears repeating today.[18]

In their active pursuit of pleasure at all costs, Sade’s libertines posit pleasure, and the immediacy of ascertaining this pleasure as their sole raison d’être. At the beginning of Philosophy, Madame De Saint-Ange declares it her intention, as a ‘modern’ thinker and libertine to pervert Eugénie, ‘to overthrow all the false principles that have benumbed her mind.’[19] Morals, virtues and laws are, for the mentors, worthless chimeras with no relation to a material, or natural-law – indeed for Dolmancé, the preeminent and most visionary libertine in the text, ‘there is no action, however bizarre you may picture it, that is truly criminal; or one that can really be called virtuous.’[20] From the very outset Sade’s libertines make it their intention to take the young and virtuous Eugénie beyond the limits of her moral temperament and expose her to the world-as-they-see-it, stripped of all chimerical institutions, to expose the hypocrisy of the civilised world, and demonstrate the prodigious effect of deviation and indecency.[21] To confirm this, Chevalier, in one instance, extolls on his listeners, his vison of a (semi-coherent) politics that permits the expression of the more despicable aspects of humanity when he explains:

If a man is not given the secret possibility of exhaling the dose of tyranny that nature has put at the bottom of his heart, then he will be forced to take out his frustration on the beings that surround him, and he will imperil the state. If you wish to avoid this danger, you must allow the free development of those authoritarian urges, which, notwithstanding, torment him endlessly.[22]

Similar, and even more extreme sermons in transgression are extolled by Dolmancé, who argues that laws confounding access to pleasure in and through destruction are proven void by nature itself: ‘Doesn’t it verify that the two of them are so thoroughly interlinked and interlocked that neither can possibly proceed without the other, that nothing can be born, nothing can be regenerated without destruction?’ He asks.[23] Hence, ‘destruction is as much a law of nature as creation.’[24]

As the novel progresses, Eugénie begins to submit to their teachings: [I]f we grant [the imagination] the freedom to transgress the ultimate boundaries prescribed by religion, decency, humanity, virtue—indeed, all our alleged duties—’, she muses; ‘then wouldn’t the deviations of our imaginations be prodigious?’[25] In her active pursuit of pleasure she is stripped bare, in the flesh and mind: She is firstly stripped of her many values and beliefs, her imagination is then routinely filled by her mentors with libertine ideals, before they each take it in turn and readily fill her, physically, in uncomfortable and laughable scenes depicting orgies wherein she is introduced to the pleasures and corporeal sensations of sexual excess and pain. In so doing, Sade’s libertines posit pleasure, and the immediacy of ascertaining carnal and destructive pleasures as their sole activity of any value or meaning to the human being, contrary to cultural, juridical and political norms that limit and control an individual’s ability to fulfil such urges. Underpinning the libertine transgressive and subversive doctrine is the recognition that humankind is the base product of a cruel nature in which nothing destructive could or should be considered a crime, as destruction itself is a part of the natural law of being. As previously mentioned, to savour any pleasure wherever it can be found within this cruel world, is therefore, for the immoral mentors, the only ‘virtue’ worthy of consideration. [26] For the true liberties, nothing or no one matters, as ultimately, all human beings are considered ‘as an absolute nullity’, except in the pursuit of an egotistical sense of pleasure through pain and transgression.[27] Transgressions, throughout Philosophy, akin to those previously eluded to, are committed by persons fully aware and in control of their actions. Indeed, being aware for their actions is what distinguishes them as radical and subversive as opposed to being simply base or degenerate, their actions spitefully contravene conventional logic and pre-existing morals as their aim. Self-awareness of their perversions of reason and the acceptable, be it of sex or politics, make the libertines transgressions all the more horrific and radical, as the offending subjects further other and separate themselves from society.

It is not then, simply, the violence or perversions of his libertine characters (both of which will be looked at in more detail in the following), which Sade utilised to extremity to distress the sensibilities of the reader. It is also important to our understanding of Philosophy that, the likes of Dolmancé, Eugénie and Madame de Saint-Ange so wilfully accept and submit to these behaviours that undermine the cultural and intellectual environment premised on, as Chevalier extolls, religion, monarchy and baseless moral values. The immoral teachers and their subject instead reject, and even subvert ‘God-centred spiritualty’, in their advocating of a radical ‘Man-centred materialism’ and a spiritualty premised on the attainment of bodily and natural impulses and desires in a new vision of a perverse ethical absolutism.[28] The impact of the sustained attacks that Sade’s literatures inflict against the reader’s sensibilities cannot be understated, and demonstrate that Sade is much more than a writer of abhorrent sexual and violent fantasies. Indeed, the negation of morality, the coalescing of pleasure and pain highlights the unspoken or hidden subjective fantasies of power, desire and violence which affect human psychology, and also to reflect on and critique the flagrant abuses and hypocrisy of oppressive institutions. For Dolmancé, ‘there is no action, however bizarre you may picture it, that is truly criminal’.[29] His actions therefore, like Chevalier’s politics – which we shall come to in part III – are guided by an outright rejection and repudiation of all ethics and laws premised on a dominant theism and ‘abstract fright of the tortures of hell’, which they argue has ‘caused many heinous crimes, but never prevented a single one’.[30] No more Gods, Chevalier exclaims, ‘if you do not want their catastrophic dominion to quickly plunge you back into the horrors of despotism’.[31]


After the troubling subversion of norms and morals, what most jars the reader of Sade are the scenes of grotesque horror. The grotesque, particularly in terms of bodies, reflects a fantastical and satirical conjoining of excess and horror that ‘forces us to question what it means to be human’.[32] Throughout Philosophy, bodies are interlocked in excessive, corpulent and coital shapes wherein multiple bodies merge and contort into one another in a grotesque spectacle of violence, sex, corpulence and sensation. The libertines copulate, eat, drink and abuse one another in elaborate rituals that overtly transgress all pre-established Eighteenth-century sexual and behavioural norms and boundaries. Through their sexual behaviour, the libertines demonstrate their commitment to a way of life that subverts all of the norms of their society and set them apart as morally and politically autonomous, abject beings. Such scenes, again, benefit from a reading that plays up the satirical, fantastical and pathological elements as Sade’s characters exceed and annihilate increasingly uncanny bodies, pushing bodies beyond their limits to provoke a kind of esoteric and sublime state of being. One of the more unforgettable scenes which evidences this in Philosophy is the scene wherein the teachers and their protégé, Eugénie, attack Eugénie’s self-righteous mother, Madame de Mistival, taking out their frustrations against the establishment through the abuse of her body and corruption of her morals.

Firstly, the libertines admonish a forlorn Madame de Mistival for her religious values and her ignorance toward their subversive, radical and antithetical values:

You told her that fucking was a sin, whereas it is actually the greatest joy in life. You wanted to teacher her mores as if a girl’s happiness weren’t the product of debauchery and immorality, as if the happiest of all women weren’t incontestably the one who wallows most in filth and libertinage, the one who best defies all prejudices, and who gives less of a damn about her reputation![33]

While abusing the morals of Madame de Mistival, Sade’s immoral mentors voice their extreme anger at what they perceive as an indefensible hypocrisy and abuse of power of the provincial establishment values. That they consider ‘filth and libertinage’ to be the most sought-after states of being, theirs is not just a transgression of values and limits, but a thoroughgoing dialectical subversion wherein low and high become displaced. Indeed, in so doing they re-establish the ‘ethical’ and existential parameters of human conduct and philosophy and take it upon themselves to be the extrajudicial exponents of this philosophy, punishing the unlucky Madame for her crimes against their subversive sensibilities:

Listen, slut, I’m going to teach you some manners! . . . You are a victim sent here by your husband! You must suffer your fate! Nothing can save you! . . . What will it be? I don’t know! Perhaps you’ll be hanged, broken on the wheel, torn with pincers, burned alive. The choice of your torture depends on your daughter; she will issue the verdict. But you will suffer you slut! Oh, no! you won’t be immolated until you endure an infinity of torments! As for your yelling, I warn you: it’s useless![34]

The punishment then intensifies, as Eugénie subjects her mother to a violent and prolonged rape that demonstrates all she has learned on her ‘thorny road of vice’.[35] The rape culminates with Dolmancé paying a servant with syphilis to rape her and having Eugénie ‘sew up’ her mother’s orifices that the ‘poison remains concentrated’ and trapped within her.[36]

Evident in scenes enacting the antithetic values of his libertines against bodies that represent the aspects of Eighteenth-century French culture which Sade was so averse to, Sade rebels against the predominant cultural and intellectual tracts of his time. While in his life he lived out some libertine fantasies, his writing demonstrates that the pathway designated by the libertines is a problematic and unresolved one. As is the case within effective transgressive satires, politics, values and any sense of stability in an overarching intellectual or moral position are destabilised and become the subject of fierce critique and contention. Sade’s Philosophy is no different. The disjunction between the violent, nihilistic libertine values of Dolmancé, for example, and the more optimistic values of his more politically-minded peer, Chevalier, elude to this.[37] In having such diametrically opposed views and politics aired throughout Philosophy, and also, in having such views so vociferously fought and critiqued throughout the text and indeed its politics and ethical position cannot be so readily pinpointed.

Through his engagement with horror and subversion of all values, Sadean literature can be read as the literature of a radical, even spiteful challenge against establishment – be that the monarchical and aristocratic, or post-revolutionary. Throughout his controversial career, Sade avoided positioning himself totally on either side of the revolution, ultimately his scepticism towards politics and law, outweighed his sense of passion for, or enthusiastic belief in any political option open to the French people in the late Eighteenth-century. This is further highlighted in Sade’s satirical critique of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s discourses on liberty and equality, and the violence of Robespierre that characterized the revolution in ‘Frenchmen, Some More Effort If You Wish To Become Republicans’.[38] This incorporated pamphlet is at once, highly sceptical of the monarchy, of the aristocracy and of religion, but fails to articulate any kind of rational alternative, except to lavish platitudes on a paradoxical, ‘ethical’ brand of libertinism that demands the reversal of all moral systems. Contemporary audiences who are left reeling, or disaffected by current political affairs and pessimistic sense that the political option has so far failed to bring about the kind of freedoms, liberty and equality so wholeheartedly desired, may to some extent sympathize and possibly identify with Sade’s satirical tone and pessimism here. When challenged to defend the libertine vision, in the face of both the most entrenched dogmatism of 18th century, and also, as recalled in Chevalier’s critique, Dolmancé extorts his vision for humanity premised on the nihilistic compulsion to destroy the intellectual basis of modern culture and recalls a desire for excessive mores and the negation of politics in pursuit of a sense of affirmative immediacy based on material eroticism. This, however, leaves no room for compassion, for ethical conduct or for equality. The scepticism towards politics and the libertine philosophical and political alternative are addressed to a certain extent by Chevalier, who demands Dolmancé recognise the hypocrisy and cruelty of his nihilism and unilateral commitment to material values as a dialectically-sustained, aristocratic privilege: ‘How different would those principles be’, he asks:

[I]f you were deprived of your immense fortune, which enables you to satisfy your passions relentlessly. […] When your body, exhausted from lust, rests drowsily on featherbeds, take a look at their bodies; they are stooped from the labor that keeps you alive. […] You barbarian! Are they not human beings like you? And since they resemble you, why must you enjoy while they suffer?[39]

Again, the abuse of others is, for Dolmancé, justifiable if it brings an individual closer to the fulfillment of their desire, which is for the libertine the purpose of one’s being. Moreover, pain is here at the forefront of affirmation and pleasure in Sadean discourse, and destruction is both necessary and to be sought out as both a natural and justified, necessary act: ‘[T]he more active repercussion of pain on us determines, far more swiftly and far more energetically, the direction the animal drives must take for turning into sexual delight’.[40]


The law and establishment values are, for Sade’s libertine mentors, solely purposed in denying pleasure, which gives meaning to otherwise worthless lives and is the only essential, existential truism that should be extolled, and herein we confront one of Sade’s most pertinent transgressive observations. The law, and indeed also, any recognisably jurisprudent political or moral establishment finds itself in a perpetual conflict with human self-interest, impeding mankind from the fulfillment of his or her desire and as result should be negated and/or dismantled. The wise man, Dolmancé states, foregrounding Nietzsche’s political nihilism by around three-quarters of a century, is the transgressive individual par excellence, an almost Übermensch-like character who ‘scorns’ the establishment and ‘protects himself against [its] laws’.[41]

His satirical tone, grotesque imagery and subversion of all values, including the libertine values exposed by his characters, adds to our sense that Sade was something of an unstable, conflictual, unconventional, and radical author, who wrote neither to castigate nor to confer any kind of sexual and social politics, but to force his readers to confront the darker, extreme and affirmative possibilities of human desire and transgression. Sade’s skill as a subversive writer is not necessarily in his ability to imagine the pornographic, of which there is a longstanding fascination and aptitude for in French literature,[42] nor is it found in his vision of a viable political or social alternative. Instead, Sade’s importance is evident in readings that foreground his ability to undermine and subvert the discourses and ideals which constitute his own culture and the individual subjects (himself included) in ultimately nihilistic and even spiteful ways.

Echoing the pre- and post-French revolutionary sentiment against which Sade wrote, we can discern a similar disconnect between the establishment values that govern our everyday lives, and the existential demands for greater opportunities, freedoms and equality of the individual.  As the oft repeated adage goes: ‘it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism’, and so it can be attributed that the difficulty facing the revolutionary or radical writer today is one of the scope of their imagination.[43] Indeed, this notion is further echoed by Žižek who asserts the need for a left politics that engages with the hidden and obscene underside of a repressive, capitalist rule of law.[44] However, fantasies that necessarily negate or abandon the socio-political and economic givens of the contemporary and establish a new politics or practices of social conduct in the manner of which is achieved by Sade are invariably rare. Today’s radical writers are often skeptical of politics but can rarely imagine a viable or universally appealing alternative because more often than not, they cannot fantasise an ideal that is free of ethical and moral constraint. Sade’s satirical and transgressive novel, however, demonstrates precisely this fantasy. As demonstrated in the actions of immoral mentors, Philosophy calls for the establishment of a new form of existential understanding in the wake of the dissolution of values, premised not on optimism or virtue, but on a cold and pragmatic rationality and desire for pleasure with immediacy. When all values are subverted, the burden of meaning falls from lofty abstracts and institutions into the hands of the cynical individual subject whose raison d’être is the realization of their most perverse and base desires in the immediacy of the material world. Sade’s dark libertine fiction holds its value today, because in its undermining of authority and politics, and in the violent and grotesque abuse of bodies, the text echoes a presently relevant pessimistic tone that sees very little cause for optimism in politics, nor in humanity. Pushing fantasy to its darker limits, neither condoning or admonishing the libertines, Sade’s Philosophy presents a grotesque satire of human lives lived freely and in spite of society. In so doing, the novel poses an intellectual challenge to the disgruntled contemporary reader who is similarly driven by their own political and existential dissatisfaction, to reimagine fantasies of the negation of all contemporary moral and political proclivities. In doing so, the contemporary reader, like Sade, may experience the seeming impossibility that is the fantasy of freedom and radical alternative to the status quo, premised in the transgression and subversion of all chimerical authority.







[1] The Marquis De Sade, Philosophy in the Bedroom, or The Immoral Mentors, trans. Joachim Neugroschel, (London: Penguin Books, 2006 [1795]). Henceforth referred to in the abbreviated Philosophy.

[2] Georges Bataille, Literature and Evil (London: Penguin 2007 [1973]), p. 93.

[3] Albert Camus, The Rebel, trans. by Anthony Bower (London: Penguin, 2013 [1951]), pp. 14—25.

[4] Bataille, Literature and Evil, p. 91; John Attarian, ‘Dostoyevsky vs. the Marquis de Sade’, Modern Age, fall (2004), 342—351, (p. 351); (p. 342).

[5] John Phillips, How to Read Sade (London: Granta, 2005) p. 65.

[6] Will McMorran, ‘Behind the Mask? Sade and the Cent Vingt Journeés de Sodome’, The Modern Language Review, 108:4 (2013), 1121—1134 (p. 1121).

[7] The 120 Days of Sodom (1785), Justine, or the Misfortunes of Virtue (1791), Philosophy in the Bedroom (1795), and Juliette (1797—1801).

[8] Lynn Hunt, ‘Pornography and the French Revolution’, The Invention of Pornography, ed. Hunt (New York, Zone Books, 1996), 301—39 (p. 330); John Phillips, ‘Obscenity Off the Scene: Sade’s La Philosophy dans le Boudoir’, The Eighteenth Century, 53.2 (2012), 163—74 (p. 163).

[9] See, for example: Michael Foucault. ‘A Preface to Transgression’, in Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews, ed. and trans. Donald F. Bouchard, (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1977) 29—52. J. Larson, ‘Albert Camus’ Caligula and the Philosophy of the Marquis de Sade’, Philosophy and Literature, 37: 2 (2013), 360—373. Maria Vara, ‘Gothic Permutations from the 1790s to the 1970s: Rethinking the Marquis de Sade’s Legacy’, in Avril Horner and Sue Zlosnik (eds) Le Gothic, (New York: Palgrave, 2008) 100—115. Angela Carter, The Sadeian Woman (London: Virago Pres, 1979).

[10] Simone de Beauvoir, ‘Must We Burn Sade?’ in The Marquis de Sade: An Essay (New York: Grove Press, 1953)

[11] Angela Carter, The Sadeian Woman (London: Virago Pres, 1979).

[12] John Phillips, ‘Introduction’ in The Marquis de Sade, Justine, or the Misfortunes of Virtue, trans. by John Phillips (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012 [1791]), p. xxxiii.

[13] Robin Mookerjee, Transgressive Fiction: The New Satiric Tradition, (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), p. 11.

[14] Roland Barthes. Sade – Fourier – Loyola, trans. by Richard Miller, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), p. 17.

[15] For an engaging overview and reconsideration of the values and violence of the French Revolution see Sophie Wahnich, In Defence of the Terror: Liberty or Death in the French Revolution, (London: Verso, 2012).

[16] Phillips, in Sade (2012), p. 164.

[17] John Phillips, The Marquis De Sade: A Very Short Introduction, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005) p. 42.

[18] The Marquis de Sade, Justine, or the Misfortunes of Virtue, trans. by John Phillips, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012 [1791]), pp. xxxi—xxxii..

[19] Sade, Philosophy, p. 9.

[20] Sade, Philosophy, p. 31.

[21] Sade, Philosophy, p. 51.

[22] Sade, Philosophy, 126

[23] Sade, Philosophy 85

[24] Sade, Philosophy, 85

[25] Sade, Philosophy, 48

[26] Sade, Philosophy, p. 51.

[27] Sade, Philosophy, p. 153.

[28] Sade, Justine, p. xxxiii.

[29] Sade, Philosophy, p. 31.

[30] Sade, Philosophy, p. 111.

[31] Sade, Philosophy, p. 117.

[32] Justin D. Edwards, and Rune Graulund, Grotesque (London: Routledge, 2013).

[33] Sade, Philosophy, p. 163.

[34] Sade, Philosophy, p. 165

[35] Sade, Philosophy, p. 167

[36] Sade, Philosophy, pp. 1701

[37] Sade, Philosophy, pp. 149—50.

[38] Sade, Philosophy, pp. 105—49.

[39] Sade, Philosophy p. 150.

[40] Sade, Philosophy, p. 153.

[41] Sade, Philosophy, p. 97.

[42] The Libertine novel was a well-established genre in the pre-revolutionary French literary scene even before Sade. The Libertine novel was often sexually explicit, obscene and as such became closely associated with pornography, although the genre increasingly took on a more political agenda in the run up to the revolution, critiquing the monarchy and church, for example. Since Sade, a number of other have written in a fashion directly linked to these transgressive/pornographic precursors, including the likes of Guillaume Apollinaire, Georges Bataille and trances are noticeable in Antonin Artaud’s ‘theatre of cruelty’.

[43] Fredric Jameson, ‘Future City’, New Left Review. 21(May-June), 2003. Internet. <; [accessed 25 Feb, 2017].

[44] Slavoj Žižek. Welcome to the Desert of the Real! (London: Verso, 2002).

Work Cited 

Attarian, John. ‘Dostoyevsky vs. the Marquis de Sade’, Modern Age, fall (2004), 342—351.

Barthes, Roland. Sade – Fourier – Loyola, trans. by Richard Miller, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989)

Bataille, Georges. Literature and Evil (London: Penguin 2007 [1973]).

Camus, Albert. The Rebel, trans. by Anthony Bower (London: Penguin, 2013 [1951])

Carter, Angela. The Sadeian Woman (London: Virago Pres, 1979).

Crossland, Margaret, and The Marquis De Sade, The Marquis De Sade Reader, trans. Margaret Crossland, (London: Peter Owen, 2000 [1991]).

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