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History of Shit

Written in Paris after the days of student revolt in May 1968 and before the devastation of the AIDS epidemic, this book is emblematic of a wild and adventurous strain of 1970s theoretical writing that attempted to marry theory, politics, sexuality, pleasure, experimentation and humour. Debunking all humanist mythology about the grandeur of civilization, the book suggests instead that the management of human waste is crucial to our identities as modern individuals - including the organization of the city, the rise of the nation-state, the development of capitalism, and the mandate for clean and proper language. Far from rising above the muck, Dominique Laporte argues, we are thoroughly mired in it, particularly when we appear our most clean and hygienic.
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"According to Jacques Lacan, humans distinguish themselves from animals the moment shit becomes for them an embarrassing leftover, a source of shame, something to be secretly disposed of. As such, shit casts its shadow even at the most sublime moments of human experience. In ancient Greek theatres, a hole in the middle of the large stone seats in the front rows allowed members of the privileged classes to undergo a double katharsis--a spiritual purification by which their souls were cleansed of bad emotions and a bodily purification to eliminate bad-smelling excrement. Far from being a theoretical joke about the unmentionable 'that,' Laporte's History of Shit confronts the most fundamental issues of what it means to be human. This book is a test for everyone who claims, 'nothing human is foreign to me'!" -- Slavoj Zizek "The History of Shit is mesmerizing, important, and inspired, a perfectly balanced work where the unearthed information is as voluminous and revealing as Laporte's prose is fascinatingly abridged and exquisite." -- Dennis Cooper, author of Frisk

About the Author

Dominique Laporte, who died in 1984 at the age of thirty-five, was a psychoanalyst and the coauthor of Francais national: Politique et practiques de la langue nationale sous la Revolution Francaise.

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