Tag Archives: erotic literature

“Venus Anadyomene” by Arthur Rimbaud

VenusPompeii

This morning I took my copy of Rimbaud Complete from my shelf and flipped through it. I came upon this poem and decided to read it. Since it is a translation, I am including the text here.

As if from a green tin coffin, a woman’s head
Rises from an old bathtub, slow and dumb,
Hair greased back to hide bald patches
And not succeeding very well;

First: a fat gray neck, jutting shoulder blades,
A squat back with all kinds of curves;
Then: her heavy hips begin and never seem to end;
Folds of fat shift beneath her skin:

Her spine’s a little raw, and the whole mass
Reeks; above all, you notice irregularities
Better appreciated under a microscope…

Two words are engraved across her ass: Clara Venus;
–And then her body shifts and offers up her ample rump
For a view: a repellant frame for the ulcer on her anus.

(translation by Wyatt Mason)

In the poem, Rimbaud takes a common artistic theme—the birth of Venus from the ocean—and gives it a more human twist. Venus is the symbol of female physical beauty which has become the ideal in Western culture. But how accurate is this image? Women frequently end up starving themselves or surgically altering their bodies in an attempt to meet this idealized construct of what is beautiful.

Rimbaud takes the average woman and makes her an erotic icon. The Venus here has all her human imperfections: she’s overweight, aged, balding, has back problems, and she has some body odor. But these “irregularities” are what make her unique as a person, and she proves to be just as erotic as the flawless, idealized Venus lounging in her shell. And yes, Rimbaud’s Venus also has an anus, just like every other woman, unlike the other artistic representations of Venus that focus primarily on her front.

It speaks volumes about our culture that some 2000-year-old idealized image of what female beauty is supposed to be still dominates our views. We can thank our media for helping keep this ideal alive.

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Don’t Ban a Book By Its Cover

I read an article this morning on the Huffington Post concerning Apple’s banning of a book because the cover was deemed too “erotic” (click here to read the article). As I look at the cover, shown here, I can’t for the life of me figure out why this cover would be deemed inappropriate. In fact, I find the photograph to be very artistic. With all the questionable images on the internet that are only a click away, you’re going to ban this? I don’t get it.

While I found this was annoying, the rest of the article made me furious. The article points out that Apple has been censoring their e-books for a while now. It appears that Apple feels it’s appropriate to remove sections from such classic works as Ulysses, Moby Dick, and the Kama Sutra. I find this offensive on a very deep level. In a modern society, censorship of art is something that should not be tolerated. And please spare me the argument that it might get into the hands of an underage child. Really? Ulysses? If a child is that precocious that he or she can read Ulysses, then you really don’t have to worry about that child being exposed to sexually explicit material. Your concern should be how to intellectually challenge that child.

I’m not going to get into the debate here about whether e-books are better than printed copies, or vice versa, but I will say this, that electronic publication certainly makes censorship much easier. When all you have to do is select and click Delete to eliminate “offensive” material, you are increasing the likelihood that this will occur. That said, maybe I need to buy a new copy of Ulysses to keep on my shelf, just in case.

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