Arousing Discontent: Dutch Pornographic Plays, 1670-1800

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n the second half of the seventeenth century, the Dutch Republic became the "sex shop" of Europe, printing large varieties of erotic works and distributing them through various reader groups. The production of pornographic works also inspired Dutch authors, who developed new forms of erotic prose and plays. Around 1700 Dutch theatrical eroticism mainly took the form of a bawdy dialogue. During the second half of the eighteenth century, when the theatrical landscape of the Netherlands diversified, new pornographic settings were invented. Dutch pornographers developed different varieties of libertinism by making use of the available political discourses and of the available theatrical styles, while experimenting with different styles to manipulate the bodies of both the actors and the audience. This article discusses three pornographic plays to analyze the different performative styles that were deployed to arouse discontent. The dynamics of the production of Dutch pornographic plays thus was dependent upon a combination of factors: the practice of theatrical performance in the Dutch Republic, the development of different theatrical styles, and the construction of specific varieties of (political) criticism for which Dutch pornography was used as a vehicle.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-132
Number of pages15
JournalJournal for Early Modern Cultural Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • cultural history
  • Pornography
  • Obscenity
  • Libertinism
  • Book Market
  • Theatre


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