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Many things upset vice campaigners from the consumption of alcohol to the existence of prostitution. One of the consistent threads of outrage running through the movement was over the exposure of flesh whether in pornography, on the stage, or indeed in any public arena whatsoever. Discomfort with nudity was not unique to the anti-vice movement, perhaps more especially as the naked body increasingly became a site through which political dissatisfaction could be articulated. Diverse forms of the new nudist movement early in the twentieth century offered a critique of modern life at much the same time as modernist artists used the nude as a canvas protesting the limits of older artistic traditions. Yet despite the obvious radical differences between anti-vice campaigners, nudists and the avant-garde art scene, their understanding of the nude was shaped by surprisingly similar readings. The female form and the notion of the ‘primitive’ dominate the discussions in all these movements, and do so under the sign of modernity. This talk explores the ways in which nakedness figured as a problem of and in modernity.
Philippa Levine is the Helen Mary Thompson Centennial Professor in the Humanities and Co-Director of the Program in British Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Her forthcoming book with Oxford University Press is Eugenics: A Very Short Introduction and she is currently at work on a study of nakedness.
4.00pm Thursday 12 May 2016
Seminar Room, Level 4 Forgan Smith Tower,
University of Queensland, St Lucia
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