Trim: 6¼ x 9⅜
978-1-4985-3726-1 • Hardback • December 2016 • $93.00 • (£72.00)
978-1-4985-3727-8 • eBook • December 2016 • $88.00 • (£68.00)
Chad Denton earned his PhD in history from the University of Missouri.
Introduction: A Libertine Nobility
Chapter 1: Refinement and the Court Nobility
Chapter 2: A Libertine Nobility
Chapter 3: The Liberated Sodomite
Chapter 4: Institutionalizing Adultery
Chapter 5: Marie Antoinette, The Revolution, and The End of the Libertine Nobility
This book . . . should be of interest to scholars seeking to understand the boundaries of libertine behavior and how eighteenth-century French nobles used libertinage to maintain their status even as it ultimately led to a decline of that status by the end of the eighteenth century.
— Journal of the History of Sexuality
In taking seriously the libertine association with sodomy and adultery as not merely sexual scandal, but as a form of moral defiance and an expression of skepticism, Chad Denton asks how changing notions of noble self-understanding competed with, and often undermined, royal efforts to manage and subdue the French nobility. In so doing, Denton makes a compelling case for the significance of the libertine ethos, with its celebration of personal sexual freedom and rejection of religious orthodoxy, as an important element in the political culture of pre-Revolutionary France.
— Katherine B. Crawford, Vanderbilt University
Chad Denton's important study explores how the early modern French nobility's own tendencies to relinquish traditional military and land ownership roles in favor of an intellectual and libertine existence at Versailles and the salons led to their demise. Fuelled by Enlightenment ideals, libertine nobles of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries began to employ sodomy and adultery as philosophical and political statements. Denton persuasively argues that the growing identification of the haute noblesse as an exclusively libertine, irreligious, and amoral social group made them vulnerable and helped to pave the way for the French Revolution.
— Una McIlvenna, University of Kent
With the popularity of works like Laclos’s Dangerous Liaisons, the history of the libertine French nobility has long been of interest to scholars and non-scholars alike, but has not been the subject of a complete study in English, until now. Writing in fluid and engaging prose, Chad Denton pulls on a wide array of sources to present the history of this fascinating group. He re-conceptualizes the meaning of elite libertinism from simple resistance to governing social, religious, and sexual norms, to a means by which the elite nobility justify their privilege as an order. This argument will surely open up discussion on the nature of the nobility in the Old Regime as well as the importance and meaning of libertinism.
— Nina Kushner, Clark University