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Auerbach Lecture | 28.11.2022 | 18 Uhr

Carlos Halaburda (Luso-Hispanic Studies & Critical Theory, Toronto): Lectosexuality: Pornorealism as Assisted Reproductive Technology in Nineteenth-Century Brazil


This lecture discusses the reproductive politics of the Brazilian feuilleton O aborto (1893) by the realist writer Alberto Figueiredo Pimentel. Shaped by the collective dynamics of nineteenth-century disciplines, from demography, legal medicine, and psychiatry to naturalism à la Émile Zola, O aborto secured the bond that held together a contradictory alliance between pornography and Victorian morality, between visibility and censorship. Serialized erotic fiction became an effective machine of desire. It incited scandal and curiosity as much as it became an anatomic compendium where the reading public learned about its reproductive capacities. In this sense, with ‹‹lecto-sexuality›› I refer to a mode of reading promoted by Brazilian naturalism’s erotic qualities that generated both libidinal responses and reproductive imperatives. O aborto’s scenes of ‹‹female solitary reading›› suggest that pornography accelerated a biosocial engineering project built around the cognitive work of reading and the subsequent production of suggestive images that aspired to convert readers into inseminating machines, a sort of assisted reproductive technology. Contrarily, through the tragic history of the novel’s protagonist, Maria Rodrigues, Pimentel suggests that stimulating reading for personal pleasures disconnected from the reproductive task, especially in women, led to prostitution, madness, and death.

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