Poet and novelist Charles Bukowski described promiscuity as "feast and feast and feast." The promiscuous person is having fun, getting away with it, and showing no signs of stopping. More often, though, promiscuity has been seen as demonic, as the sign of an uncivilised race, or as a symptom of mental disorder.
Promiscuity in Western Literature capitalises on the fact that literature gives us deep and varied resources for reflecting on this controversial aspect of human behaviour. Drawing on authors from Homer to Margaret Atwood, it explores recurrent ideas and scenarios: Why does the literature of promiscuity evoke ideas of the animal? Why does it so often turn upon the image of the "excessive" woman? How and why does promiscuity feature in comic writing? How does the emergence of the modern city change representations of promiscuity? And, in the present day, what impact have ecological concerns had on the way writers depict promiscuity?
Table of Contents
Chapter One: Animals
Chapter Two: The Excessive Woman
Chapter Three: Sex Objects and Comic Objects
Chapter Four: Libertine Ethics
Chapter Five: The "Swarming City"
Conclusion: Used Up
Peter Stoneley has taught at the Universities of Oxford, Texas, and Queen’s Belfast. He is currently Professor of English and Head of Department at the University of Reading, U.K. His previous books have been on US literature and culture, and on dance.