Those who love and live by art, tell us that it is the most exalted
expression of civilized life. In this provocative new book Jonathan
Dollimore argues that, far from confirming humane values,
literature more often than not violates them.
He begins with a polemical and witty attack on the spurious
radicalism of some fashionable academic theories about desire and
sexual dissidence. Dollimore then examines the ways in which the
media, literary critics and the state, as well as these literary
theorists, all deny or repress the disturbing and dangerous
knowledge conveyed by literature.
His own account of the volatile connections between aesthetics,
desire, politics and censorship unfolds through topics such as
homosexuality, bisexuality, sexual disgust, and the disturbing
relations between art and inhumanity, and through brilliant
insights into a wide range of authors including Euripides,
Shakespeare, Tennyson and Yeats.
Most persistently, this book is about how the experience of
desire in life and art compromises our most cherished ethical
beliefs. If this helps make art irresistible and of indispensable
value, it follows too that there are reasonable grounds for wanting
to censor it.
This compelling and accessibly written book will be essential
reading for students and scholars of literary, gender and cultural
studies, and will have a major impact on debates about art,
sexuality, censorship and the role of the intellectual.