Libertine Literatur und die „Erotik der Aufklärung" im Baltikum

Plath, Ulrike
June 2012
Forschungen zur Baltischen Geschichte;2012, Vol. 7, p76
Academic Journal
Baltic literature of the 18th century, prudish as it seems to be at first read, could not do without erotic and sexual stimulation, insinuation and the prickle of the prohibited. Libertine and clandestine literature imported from France and Germany played a role in the everyday reading pleasures of the upper classes, a role likely even more important than emphasized in this article. Although it is not easy to find traces of the "erotic of enlightenment" -- to adopt a phrase coined by Robert Muchembled -- within Baltic German literature of the late 18th century, three examples from quite different fields of literary production have been analyzed. While Peter Ernst Wilde, a physician, preached the moderation of all kinds of pleasures, the clergyman August Wilhelm Hupel, one of the most renowned writers of the Baltic enlightenment, delighted himself and his readership with descriptions of nude Baltic peasant women and even let himself be seduced to fieldwork on the physical and moral meaning of virginity among Baltic peasants. August von Kotzebue, one of the most ambivalent and productive writers of his time, known mostly for his plays written for the local theatre in Reval, risked his good reputation as an author with a play full of obscenity that was published to influence cultural politics. Pornography was a weapon in his writing directed against the growing influence of the "German Union of the 22", a secret society close to the Illuminati. None of the men were born in the Baltic provinces. All of them came to the Baltics as mediators of the erotic culture of enlightenment spread in Germany under the influence of pre-revolutionary France. While erotic writings have had direct political intention in France, the Baltic examples referred to in the article did not create a homogenous "Baltic erotic discourse". Although censorship was extraordinarily liberal under the reign of Catharine II, few authors dared to speak directly about erotic subjects, and they did that in very different ways, and for different purposes. Among the three Baltic authors considered, it can be argued that August Wilhelm Hupel had the greatest influence on local society. In his writings, the "erotic of Baltic enlightenment" was clearly voyeuristic, and helped with its clear anti-revolutionary intention to stabilize the Baltic estate system.


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