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Filthy MaterialModernism and the Media of Obscenity$
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Chris Forster

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190840860

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190840860.001.0001

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Modernism and the Media History of Obscenity

Modernism and the Media History of Obscenity

(p.11) 1 Modernism and the Media History of Obscenity
Filthy Material

Chris Forster

Oxford University Press

This chapter surveys the history of obscenity in English jurisprudence, from the invention of obscene libel as a crime in the eighteenth century through the 1857 Obscene Publications Act and its 1959 reform. It draws on Marshall McLuhan and Friedrich Kittler to argue that the invention of obscenity, and its subsequent definitions and redefinitions, reflect changes in media ecology and technology. It begins by examining the 1960 trial of D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, before surveying the history of obscenity, and concluding with readings of the way the technologically mediated character of obscenity is reflected in both James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as Young Man and Ian McEwan’s Atonement.

Keywords:   obscenity, obscene libel, media studies, Obscene Publications Act, Hicklin test, James Joyce, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Aristotle’s Masterpiece

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