Sade in the Counterculture: The Progressive Defence of a Horror Show

Stevenson, Guy. 2025. Sade in the Counterculture: The Progressive Defence of a Horror Show. In: James Martell, ed. Understanding Sade, Understanding Modernism. New York: Bloomsbury. ISBN 9798765109151 [Book Section] (Forthcoming)

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Abstract or Description

This article explores the influence of the Marquis de Sade in the Counterculture of the 1960s. Through the novelists William Burroughs and Henry Miller and essays by Simone de Beauvoir, George Batailles and others, it considers the aesthetic and moral implications of a Sadean inheritance in post-1945 experimental writing. How did the modernist aim to "épater les bourgeoise" accommodate Sade’s aristocratic and only semi-satirical fantasies about butchering proles? How did that accommodation evolve when this niche aim became a mass appealing lifestyle one? What light does all of this shed on the efficacy of avant-garde culture, from the early 20th century to the present? Following a line of enquiry opened by Angela Nagle in 2017, the article ends by considering Sade in relation to the grotesque of transgression produced by the Trump-supporting online Alt Right and arguments about censorship, identity and free speech today.

Item Type:

Book Section


Marquis de Sade, 1960s Counterculture, Transgression, Radical Feminism, Simone de Beauvoir, Henry Miller, William Burroughs, Kate Millett, George Batailles, Online Culture Wars

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature


6 February 2025Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

12 Jun 2024 13:49

Last Modified:

12 Jun 2024 13:49


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