Reviews and comment from the Demon Crew - creative writers at De Montfort University, Leicester.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Sex, Booze and Flatulence

Dr Toni Weller, a senior lecturer in history at De Montfort University, explains that by putting the word 'sex' in a title you're bound to get people's attention, and, judging by the impressive turn out this afternoon, it worked. The full title of the talk was 'Sex, Culture and Politics: The Art of English Satire from Georgian Debauchery to Victorian Morality'.

For the next hour Dr Weller transported her audience back to the mid 1700s, and covered over a century on the evolution of English satire. We were given examples of work from contemporary satirists and caricaturists such as James Gillray, Thomas Rowlandson, George Cruikshank and William Hogarth.

Satire from the Georgian era was steeped in crude imagery, particular favourites consisting of farting monarchs and public fornication. George, Prince of Wales, later Prince Regent and George IV, hated James Gillray's representation of him as grossly overweight and dissolute in A Voluptuary under the horrors of Digestion (1792), but to be satirised meant you were important. So he couldn't really condemn it.

Victorian satire, however, settled for a more conservative representation of culture and politics, with sex being almost completely removed. As a result it became less humorous, implicit, and more realistic. For example Cruikshank's The Bottle (1847) was a moral tale against drinking.

Dr Weller closed the talk with modern examples of pictoral satire. Has the style changed? Today satirists focus more on the government than the monarchy, but thankfully the sarcastic humour hasn't been removed.

Fashionable Contrasts; – or – the Duchess's little shoe yeilding to the magnitude of the Duke's foot
James Gillroy (1792)

A New Court of Queen's Bench, As it Ought to Be -- Or -- The Ladies Trying a Contemptible Scoundrel for a "Breach of Promise"
George Cruikshank (1849)

All images taken from Wikimedia Commons

Sarah Beckley

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