A prominent figure during the French Revolution and Napoléon’s Empire, the Marquis de Sade passed away on 2 December 1814. To mark the bicentennial of his death, an international conference with the theme of “Sade Today” was held last month at the University of Amsterdam. Our own Dr. Melissa Deininger was one of the invited keynote speakers and she presented a lecture entitled “The Marquis de Sade and the Resurgence of Erotica in Modern Literature.” At the conference, scholars from North America and Europe discussed Sade’s influence on such diverse topics as politics, art, gender identity, and even manga. Dr. Deininger’s paper traces the influence of Sade’s theories on modern literature. Works like E.L. James’s Fifty Shades trilogy and Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty series echo numerous themes found in Sade’s eighteenth-century writings. These modern best sellers once again remind us of the role that literature can play in determining and transgressing societal mores. Demonstrating the undeniable legacy of Sade’s writings for authors and publishers alike, Dr. Deininger argues that the Marquis’s motto of “il faut tout dire” (“one must say everything”) is just as valid now as it was two hundred years ago.
Dr. Deininger did take some time between conference events to enjoy the city of Amsterdam, its museums, and holiday markets. She also managed to bring back some Dutch chocolate as a treat for her students as they wrapped up the semester!