A History of Seduction

The Book Review


Clement. Knox joins US now from London. His new book is called Seduction History from the enlightenment to the present Clement. Thanks for being here so your day job. I want to start there. Because you have a book oriented day job you work as a nonfiction buyer at waterstones which is of course a major British bookstore teen. What's your job like there? What do you do so their tour of managing nonfiction and about two hundred and eighty stores? My job really is just to get the the right books and the right stores. I'm responsible for history philosophy politics Papa. Johns I mean about nine categories overall and so. We do a lot with the publishers booksellers as well. Did you get to pick which categories you're responsible for? No when I got the job I was just assigned and then they'll kind of a reshuffle if he has got a few more categories as well they kind of work perfectly because it more or less alliance with what I'm interested in reading and what I'm interested in writing see you're deciding which books go into waterstone's the chain into which stores and how many copies are ordered exactly that to you. So that's a very powerful position. It's very structured is a very fair how we how we do it and is a constant communication publishers stores and sometimes even the authors as well we very even-handed brushing away and there's no kind of mysterious. What would probably shooter who understand. What's your typical day? Like a lot of meetings a lot of looking at science because a lot of reading of publicity plans and back and forth people. He wants us to buy their. Berko by book or by even more so. Are you living months ahead of time looking at? What are the books coming out this fall? Oh Oh yeah. We're tasked with trying to look as far as possible. So wig about to start. Looking at the timber Tiber November on average would normally thinking three months ahead of the east. And what happened with your book? The decider like we're going to order a hundred thousand copies of seduction. Yeah I I wish it was it by my boss has taken over that completely and utterly redeem. Oh look thing I try and pretend you know having to stay in a total of ignorance about one's own buck. I agree. Yeah but let's talk. Let's talk about your book. This may seem like perhaps a silly question but let's define seduction exactly. How is it action separate from courtship? How is it different from something? Maybe more creepy and less mutual like sexual harassment. Like what is seduction? I think the crucial aspect is selection. It's psychological and fumes kind of like confrontation between the minds and the passion of two different individuals in English law. That was a whole body of law do seduction discussing in some detail and wish would later it was. It came to America with with the mayflower that was developed in an extraordinary way and in those laws there was a distinction made between between rape which is obviously a What is coercive violent and seduction was seen as distinct from rape and she assumed that consent had been obtained that consent was in some way vitiated or somehow degraded by the techniques by which it was one so seduction carry that burden. That somehow someone's being over and perhaps the method used to win them over the Underhand but that's only one definition. There's a whole other definition which would say you know. It's just about courtship and game playing and it's fun and this is dawn which is dawn sexual freedom. Did you focus on that fun? Dance in this book or did you cover the full gamut the way the book is kind of structured is the. There's like a dialectic. Going on and one half of the history of seduction is about people worrying about sexual freedom worrying about things going wrong about the collision desire empower the capacity for abuse and wrongdoing. That is one of the history and the other half is about sexual freedom being this exciting enjoyable thing which which is buried lighthearted and people Is The insurance of the church. Will the government so the book kind of structured around the kind of dichotomy and not conflict between our two years of war sexual freedom is and what that means deduction your subtitle is history from the enlightenment the presidency? You're focusing mostly on the modern era. But let's start just briefly with that premodern era talk about what our earliest ideas of seduction were. Maybe perhaps grounded in with Allah G. And then how that changed as you moved into the Judeo Christian era the reason I start in the enlightenment. There's no because seduction didn't exist before seventeen hundred is because that's when seduction narrative as we understand it was born and the book is about this very powerful strange and modern thing seduction narrative which was basically invented in the eighteen th century and the product of a response to a whole new wave of ideas about the human mind about what we now think of. Feminism will prototype eminem and also about the discovery of sexual freedom as part of the blue celebrating our freedom and the enlightenment and before then you had a situation where sexuality was heavily pleased. It was subject to legal and religious interrogation and you know in America. Of course you had The puritans were very big on sexual policing but also in and the rest of Europe as well and over the course of the eighteenth century that whole value system changed. By the end of the Eighteenth Century Sexual Freedom was for granted and to be cleared. Sexual Freedom for them was not the sexual freedom that we now cherish worry about. That really meant that women go to choose. Who They married. That's where the foundation sexual freedom was not explains basically every Jane austen novel for instance. That is the undependable. The plus. They're out of plenty other novels besides and then more generally a kind of increasingly faraji towards male sexuality in particular so you see the rise of the double standard would be in spectacularly bad behavior of the rates of London and Paris Venice. You say that there were three modes of thought that really gave rise to the modern seduction narrative liberalism materialism and feminism. Let's talk about liberalism for example. How does that bring us? But we consider to be seduction as it is today in John. Look Letter of colouration. He He makes us interesting comment race. Is that basically? Everyone is going to have to look after their own. Their prospects of their own souls so liberalism is no longer going to tell people how to live their lives and what to do and instead they're going to have to have their own moral accounting and if in the religious view if they'd be living badly that we dealt with in the off the world it's not gonNA dealt with by the government and the President and obviously if you think about it back then because up until that point they'd be bathing policing sexuality quite a lot and sexuality was once you're saying okay. Everyone's GonNa look after their own moral well-being and the government's going to step out of it. The second and third order consequence of that include a increasingly hands off attitude towards sexuality and basically people are left to make their own decisions and see how how ends up so. It's not that people sat around in the late seventeenth century and said we're going to invent liberalism and one that includes sexual freedom sexual freedom flowed quite logically from this this view that we're not going to try and make everyone lived where he wants them to and that's because they tried that in Seventeenth Century. Europe and being horrific bloodshed and wars and everything else and they wanted you to move beyond that how it's addiction flow from materialism again because we'll be philosophers like like Locke and hume. They were kind of operating on the assumption that we're living in a godless world and they they were very careful how they frame that and Voltaire as well. Then we're castle how. They framed that because of course you won't read out to be an atheist but once you get to the position where we're saying. Okay they're not angels and devils and there's no Holy Spirit brought in the world and instead it's just individuals with brains achieving reality once you make those leaps you can move from new Ford away from this moralistic view of sexuality and towards an idea and that's like psychological view of reality and that's seduction narrative dramatize is this internal monologue about reason about passionate about desire and not basically the entire genre of the novel possible. And if you read these early novels like Richardson who had discussed at some length. Those books now in the more or less unreadable right ABBA time now. If you're named Pamela centrally forced to read Samuel Richardson so you know it comes with the you've read it that I have read and Shamanov so yes so been down that unfortunate path. To what extent is the history of seduction also a history of power and power dynamics? One way of looking at it is that it's not a matter of about power. One way of looking at it is that in fact sexual freedom is empowering and people who practice sexual freedom or taking control of their lives and our free liberated individuals and not seeing a strain and food since the Enlightenment Henry Fielding Mary Wilson Kroft Plus He Shelley Mary Shelley Khatri at all the way up to the present where people you know saying well. People shouldn't be telling me how to live my life. So I'm not I'm not part of it. Basically rejects the idea that seduction is about power and it says actually selections about about freedom and choice but obviously power is a complex thing to discuss. But I root it's about coercion and seduction it about agency. And as soon as our collides with especially in situations where you know that sexual inequality economic inequality there's racial inequality very quickly. We can see how adoption courtship can shade into something daca. You go into issues around race and seduction and in particular America's laws and attitudes around race in the book talk about those parts of the book America in the nineteen. Th Century developed this very extensive body of state laws placing seduction and eventually America how to federal law. The man act which was essentially a seduction Laura in everything but name and in the American south. Clearly it wasn't just a question of the law there were lynchings and these lynchings were often justified by reference to alleged sexual assaults or you know interracial relationships happening not not as true all the way up to an until so. It's not just that was seduction literature. Racial is clearly that was a very serious and horrifying epidemic of racial violence. Often had a sexual subtext. But in the case of the laws the laws designed to empower kind of racial scrutiny of sexual relationships and the mind acts was used to in California was used to prosecute lots of Japanese immigrants who had interracial relationships in the northeast and the Midwest where there were lots of Jewish immigrants or Polish German immigrants. It was used to kind of put further scrutiny communities and then the story. I tell about Joe Johnson who was the first black heavyweight champion of the world it was used to basically hound this man who they couldn't lynch or there were several attempts to do so until they tried to to get him in the courts. Did You keep the book focused on heterosexual seduction or do you cover sex relationships as well? I mentioned overseeing the enlightenment though. Is this on Abrasion of sexual freedom. I should have a code of that. Which obviously it was a celebration of heterosexual. Freedom of sexual freedom was not tackled until the nineteen sixties and seventies and beyond. So I do keep a focus on on heterosexual relationships but the simple reason is that that's deduction narrative of itself was born about this new idea of celebrating sexual freedom without sexual freedom did not include the same sex and curious about the origin of this book. Like is this something that you began before you were at waterstones is the nonfiction or a one of the nonfiction buyers or did this kind of evolve. Why hasn't anyone written about this? And getting all these other books about these other things but there's no good history of seduction. The funniest seed of this book was what I was living in America just finished Grad School in DC. And I was just reading novels like dangerous liaisons and a hero of our time and I kind of kept on coming across this theme of the Seduction Narrative. And it just wouldn't go away and it kind of knew it away me for several years and I kind of this whole history of the seduction laws which I find well fascinating and weird and then of course in in our own time. A lot of things have happened. The rise of the pick up this online dating or the rest of it. I had this of intuition that there was a story And it was the story larger than just what was going on now that it had a history and yeah. I was pretty much convinced that every day. Open the newspaper and someone in Britain the book but they never did give it a go. Well this segment is going up on Valentine's Day so it feels appropriate to ask you about your favorites seduction narrative. Dangerous liaisons novel is is is absolutely amazing. I would recommend twenty one I. It's incredibly that it was actually written two centuries ago and there have been several great adaptions of it and they were to the nineteen eighty s and then those cruel intentions made out of it in the ninety s which I think is fantastic film still. I mentioned briefly a hero of our time by lemon of again. I think everyone should read that book. And it was an incredible and the Russians were really heavily influenced by the English narrative. They will read some Richardson. They'd read Palmer and Clarisa. Bridgeton is name checked in Eugene Oregon. And of course they wrote obsessed with Byron who was a kind of mythical seducer lifetime and so the whole Russian tradition wouldn't really exist without those two figures and he said in London. Tolkien postgame also tolstoy as well all right well. I guess plenty of people to read over Valentine's Day maybe not moves people's chosen activity and this particular day but if if you are alone with book those are the ones to pick up in addition to of course deduction clement. Thanks for being here

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