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It recounts the lengthy divertissement of a bored sultan in an Orientalized Congo who is curious about the faithfulness of women, especially the favorite of his harem. His bad reputation in matters of religion and morality had intensified before and after this publication. This time the police searched his home, and he was arrested and jailed at Vincennes.
While in Vincennes, Diderot began to blame Bijoux for his troubles. With time he increasingly disowned the work and publicly professed to have committed an embarrassing youthful error and to regret it as a respectable writer, moralist, philosopher, and art critic.
However, that contrition might have been theatrical in that Diderot added material to the text well after , including three chapters that went into the edition on his explicit instructions.
In he still was apologizing for the work, calling it abominable and still blaming his mistress. He circulated an ugly story that she asked him for fifty louis that he did not have and that in despair he wrote the novel in a hurry and according to popular taste to earn that sum. Diderot fed the misogynist stereotypes of his time, casting Madeleine de Puisieux as the instigator and a prurient female lover of salacious literature, the force behind the indecent parts, whereas philosophical thinking remained the province of Diderot, the male, much as was the case with the characters in Bijoux Rustin However, the work still was treated with some discomfort by modern editors.
Scholars in the late twentieth century recognized its importance and commented on it extensively, although they may focus less on the blatant sexual aspects of the work in relation to its other dimensions.
Already incontrovertibly linked to the history of erotic literature Rustin , Bijoux completely breached the bastions of propriety with a section that is one of the earliest European works of identifiable verbal pornography, in which a "traveling jewel" recounts its adventures in what seems to be the most explicit detail. But is it so explicit? Further, the degree of crude graphic rendition of sex acts varies considerably from text to text.
The English version, for instance, is filled with the strings of sexual metaphors both explicit and concealing characteristic of erotic French literature since the late Middle Ages and certainly since the Renaissance. Diderot thus created at once a linguistic tour de force, a rhetorical experiment in verbalizing the obscene, and a representational puzzle, signaled by that deliberate act of veiling and unveiling.
We are in a society of speaking sex" Foucault , p. Foucault deemed the text extremely important for the history of sexuality and its discourses, for part four of the first volume of his History of Sexuality begins with the statement: "The aim of this series of studies? To transcribe into history the fable of Les bijoux indiscrets" Foucault , p. Foucault saw the fable, and the device of the ring, as allegorical of the Western will to know about sex and make others speak about it, to understand "what is it that we demand of sex, beyond its possible pleasures, that makes us so persistent?
Some have attempted to move beyond the ribaldry of the text or correct its apparent misogyny Meeker , stressing that in the end the virtue of women is upheld Humphries , Fowler , or that, in fact, it is not about the sexuality of women at all, but about male desire Fowler Others, on the contrary, have read it as an historical contribution to building the misogynistic view of woman as disease, specifically linked to the theme of smallpox Goldberg Others have underscored its carnivalesque and operatic quality Didier , or showed its intrinsic connection to the wider philosophical problems addressed by Diderot elsewhere, in particular its relationship to libertine philosophy Richard , Meeker and to the critique of metaphysics Deneys-Tunney Creech, James.
Diderot: Thresholds of Representation. Columbus: Ohio State University Press. Deneys-Tunney, Anne. Diderot, Denis. Les Bijoux Indiscrets, ed. Jacques Rustin. Paris: Gallimard Folio. Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality. New York : Random House. Laurence E. SubStance, Focus on the Margins 6 20 : Fowler, J. Oxford, UK: Voltaire Foundation. Goldberg, Rita. Sex and Enlightenment: Women in Richardson and Diderot. New York : Cambridge University Press.
Humphries, Jefferson. Laborde, Alice M. Diderot et Madame de Puisieux. Stanford French and Italian Studies, no. Saratoga, CA: Anma Libri. Brussels: Bruylant. Meeker, Natania. Mylne, Vivienne, and Janet Osborne. Richard, Odile. Rustin, Jacques. Paris: Ophrys. Wall, Anthony.
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"Les Bijoux indiscrets", de Diderot : cris et chuchotis