The Invention of Sadism? The Limits of Neologisms in the History of Sexuality

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Journal Article
Sexualities, 2009, 12 (4), pp. 489 - 506
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How important is a new word for the development of newly imagined sexual pathology? In the case of the neologism 'sadism' at the fin de siècle, this invention was strangely both pivotal and incidental. Tracking sexual concepts, as Laqueur does for masturbation, requires that the neologisms invented at precise historic moments be both recontextualized in relation to earlier discourses, and problematized as stable constructs in their ongoing development. This article is a genealogical sketch of this kind in relation to 'sadism', as part of a larger inquiry into how this sexual construct became available to the Frankfurt School philosophers and as an explanation for Nazi genocidal cruelty.
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