Erotic representation, 1500–1750

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


The two and a half centuries from 1500 to 1750 saw a huge range of social changes all across western Europe. The Reformation and Counter-Reformation shattered religious unity, creating an intellectual climate of debate, doubt, and contention, as well as a heightened level of censorship and regulation of thought and feeling. Wars of religion ravaged the continent: the Sack of Rome, the French civil wars of the sixteenth century, the Thirty Years War in Germany, the English Civil War and Puritan interregnum – all tore apart families and communities, and disrupted established social and political structures. The period also saw major economic shifts – massive price inflation in the sixteenth century, probably caused by the influx of American silver into Spain, and a historic reorientation of commerce as international trade networks shifted from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. As an integral part of the larger culture, erotic representation could not help but be influenced by these transformative events. Throughout this period, erotic writing was implicated in the debates and struggles over religion and morality engendered by the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. Some of the most explicit erotic writing from the period is found in polemical texts attacking the supposed hypocrisy and corruption of either a particular sect or organized religion in general. The close connection between erotic discourse and religious controversy can be seen in the evolution of the word ‘libertine’. Originally used to describe religious non-conformity, over time it came to refer primarily to a particular form of rebellious sexuality that privileged the passions of the elite male individual over established social and ethical norms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Routledge History of Sex and the Body
Subtitle of host publication1500 to the Present
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781136744280
ISBN (Print)9780415472371
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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