The Null Device

l'Enfer, c'est ouvert

The Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris is, for the first time, opening its extensive collection of pornographic materials to the public. Part of the contents of the forbidden section, officially known as "l'Enfer" (Hell) and consisting of pornography and erotica from the 17th to 19th centuries, will be visible at the Bibliothèque François Mitterrand for three months, and a smaller selection will be shown in a disused Métro station.
Only bona fide academic researchers have been allowed access to the "L'Enfer" collection until now. The omnipresence of erotic or pornographic images in the modern world has persuaded the French national library that it is permissible, finally, to open the doors of Hell.
The exhibition reveals some interesting, historical differences in erotic tastes. The earliest, 17th and 18th century, material dwells on the straightforward pleasures of the flesh. The celebration of the pleasures of pain – imposed or submitted – begins with the Marquis of Sade in the late 18th century. Pornography from the French Revolutionary period is mostly political, especially scurrilous allegations about the sexual appetite and imagination of Marie Antoinette. The 19th century concentrates on the blazing sexuality lying below the stern conservative or domestic exterior of life.

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