Exploring Twentieth-Century Art and Social History in Erotica from L’Enfer de la Bibliothèque nationale de France

Montage of images from blog post, of images from L'Enfer collection

By Philip Virta, Senior Acquisitions Editor, Gale Primary Sources

 Please be aware that this blog post contains content that may be offensive to some readers; the decision to read the post is at your own discretion. 

Enfer is a French word that translates to Inferno or Hell, and according to some religions, Hell is the place of punishment for the wicked, the damned, the morally corrupt, once death has befallen them. It is thus only fitting that books considered “contrary to public morality” should end up in Enfer. Aside from its literal meaning of Hell, Enfer is the shelf mark of the restricted books collection at the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF). A shelf mark is simply a notation or classification on a book showing its place in a library. In the 1830s, a time when the BnF was opening to a wider audience, the institution began to assign the Enfer classification to books considered to be obscene works. Whether the books were locked away because they truly were reprehensible, or merely to protect them from those who would proscribe or destroy them, it is to our benefit today as they have been preserved for our study.

On the subject of study, Enfer provides us with many opportunities to explore art and social history in a wide variety of imaginative works. While some of the books simply offer flights of fancy, erotic fantasies to titillate and arouse, many of the works in Enfer offer social commentary and criticism. After exploring the fantastic imagery in texts from the seventeenth to nineteenth century, I was intrigued to continue my search and explore how imagery developed in the late nineteenth and twentieth century, when authors and artists were often at the forefront of the social and cultural movements of their time.

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Exploring Early Modern Erotica and Social History in L’Enfer de la Bibliothèque nationale de France

L'Enfer Imagery - Part 1 post montage

│By Philip Virta, Senior Acquisitions Editor, Gale Primary Sources│

 Please be aware that this blog post contains content that may be offensive to some readers; the decision to read the post is at your own discretion. 

Back when Playboy, “an American men’s lifestyle and entertainment magazine”, was still publishing, the usual comment from anyone observed purchasing an issue from the newsstand was, “I just get it for the articles.” In the case of my latest research foray into L’Enfer de la Bibliothèque national de France, I really was just looking for the pictures.

As so often happens in research, we travel down one path, only to encounter interesting intersections. I started out studying the evolution of beauty and body standards in erotic art through the centuries. Along the way, I became equally as interested in the books themselves. The histories of the lives of some of the authors and artists was intriguing. The motivations and movements behind the books they wrote were fascinating. The themes and agendas written into the texts were engrossing. There are a wealth of topics to explore once you slip beneath the covers of the books and plumb the depths of Enfer.

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Teaching with Eighteenth Century Collections Online

Primary Source image combined with female using laptop and writing on paper.

│By Julia de Mowbray, Publisher at Gale│

Now Eighteenth Century Collection Online (ECCO) is approaching its eighteenth birthday, and has been significantly upgraded, with a focus on enhancing ECCO’s user-friendliness as a teaching and student-learning resource, it seems an apt time to see what evidence there is for its use in teaching and student learning. Plus, with more of the students’ learning experiences moving online, to platforms such as Zoom for lectures, seminars and tutorials, and to online e-resources for primary and secondary source materials, what can be learned from past use of ECCO as a teaching tool, and how can this be applied in a remote learning environment?

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Free from Male Influence: The Second Wave Feminist Press

Three images from blog post - montage of three women's periodical front covers

│By Rebecca Bowden, Associate Acquisitions Editor, Gale Primary Sources

During the 1960s and 1970s, the second wave feminist movement took off. Catalysed in the United States by Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique (1963), it quickly spread to other Western countries, focusing on issues of equality and discrimination, including rape, reproductive rights, domestic violence and workplace harassment. Central to this fight were feminist periodicals – an opportunity for women to communicate their narratives in their own voices, free of the influence of men. Many of these periodicals are now preserved in archives.

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Declassified Documents Online: Twentieth-Century British Intelligence, An Intelligence Empire

Scan of a Telegraph. Security Liaison Officer, Trinidad: security reviews of Eastern Caribbean and British Guiana. (January 1, 1955-December 31, 1956). CO 1035/16. The National Archives (Kew, United Kingdom).

│By Clem Delany, Associate Acquisitions Editor, Gale Primary Sources

The twentieth century was an era of global conflict and careful diplomacy, of the rise and fall of political extremes, of great strides in technology and vast change in the everyday lives of people around the world. Britain began the century with an empire that straddled the globe, and ended it with just a handful of small overseas territories. Warfare moved from trenches and bayonets, to weapons of mass destruction and long-distance drones. The global population skyrocketed. The internet came to be.

The scope and geographical spread of the interests of the British government over this century was vast. It reached beyond the UK and the mandates, protectorates and colonies of the British Empire, to the affairs of the self-governing Dominions and the later Commonwealth, as well as those of allies and enemies. British interests and British intelligence reached every corner of the globe from Aden to Zanzibar.

Declassified Documents Online: Twentieth-Century British Intelligence, An Intelligence Empire makes available online over half a million pages of British government papers relating to security and intelligence work in the twentieth century. It brings together files from the Security Service (MI5), the wartime Special Operations Executive (SOE) and Ministry of Economic Warfare, the Intelligence and Security Departments of the Colonial Office in the twilight of Empire, communications and intelligence records of the Ministry of Defence, and material from the Cabinet Office, including Joint Intelligence Committee reports, documents from the Special Secret Information Centre of WWII, and papers of the Cabinet Secretary relating to intelligence and espionage matters.

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Rediscovering China and the World in the Nineteenth Century

Anson Burlingame and relevant handwritten letters

│By Liping Yang, Publishing Manager, Digital Archive and eReference, Gale Asia│

US–China relations have been somewhat strained in recent years – a situation that may not be easily resolved by Joe Biden’s administration. This difficult period in the history of American and Chinese relations started when the US raised tariffs on Chinese imports, triggering China to impose retaliatory tariffs on US products. This trade conflict later escalated into a confrontation on many fronts, including technology. Many people have been racking their brains about how to ease the tensions. We can draw inspiration from the past by examining interesting historical records which show positive diplomatic relations between the two nations. Many such records are included in Gale’s digital archive collection China and the Modern World: Imperial China and the West Part 1, 1815-1881.

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How can pandemic literature help us reflect on the virus and a post-Covid future?

Cinema sign: "The World is temporarily closed"

│By Lily Cratchley, Gale Ambassador at the University of Birmingham|

‘No more diving into pools of chlorinated water…no more airplanes, no more requests to put your tray table in the upright and locked position…’ 1

If someone had told me last February that in a year’s time, I would be attending 9am lectures in pyjama bottoms, wearing a mask every time I popped to the corner shop for a much-needed bottle of wine, and would be reduced to “tiers” instead of “tears” during winter exam season, then I would have thought them crazy. However, that pretty much sums up my experience of online learning in my final year of university!

In a second year Dystopian Literature module at the University of Birmingham, I studied Emily St. John Mandel’s novel Station Eleven. The novel, set twenty years after a global pandemic, depicts a post-apocalyptic world, which wiped out ninety percent of the world’s population. Despite Mandel’s heavily dramatized content, her writing somewhat prepared me for the long term impacts this current pandemic might potentially cause.

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Pandemic Perspectives – Interview with Madi, student at National University of Ireland, Galway

Person on laptop wearing a mask

│By Evelyn Moran, Gale Ambassador at the National University of Ireland, Galway│ Evelyn conducted the following interview with Madi, also a student at the National University of Ireland, Galway, in early 2021. Madi explains the difficulties and challenges she’s experienced studying during the pandemic, and outlines how it’s affected her studies as well as wider … Read morePandemic Perspectives – Interview with Madi, student at National University of Ireland, Galway

Stories from the Jacobite Court in Exile: Sir David Nairne and his daughter, Lady Ramsay

Jacques Rigaud, Vue du Vieux Chateau de St Germain en Laye, engraving, 1725, and letter from Marie Ramsay to James Edgar

│By Edward Corp, retired Professor of British History at the Université de Toulouse│

A couple of years ago I published a biography of Sir David Nairne.1 He worked in the political secretariat of the Stuart court in exile for thirty years (1689-1728), and the Stuart Papers contain a great many letters written by him or to him during that period. I read and used those letters, and also consulted a private diary that he kept during the first half of that period. Unfortunately the diary comes to an end in 1708, and there was one thing that I was never able to discover. It might seem unimportant in itself, but it is significant in the context of a biography.

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My Top 10 Tips to Ace Your Dissertation

Man working on laptop outdoors, holding papers, looking like he's achieved something.

│By Emily Priest, Gale Ambassador at the University of Portsmouth│

Being a student and working from home in the middle of a pandemic can be hard, and it can be even harder when you have your final dissertation looming. But, despite how challenging things seem, there are a few key things you can do to ease your anxiety and make your work dazzle! Here are ten of my top tips for writing your dissertation whilst studying from home during the pandemic. Tweet us @GaleAmbassadors if they work for you – and share if you have any special dissertation or essay-writing tricks of your own!

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