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Father Ted and the Marquis de Sade

December 2, 2015

Reposting this on the 201st anniversary of the death of the Marquis de Sade

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I teach the Marquis de Sade sometimes, for my sins (sins of a rather disturbing and sordid nature no doubt).  This week I found I was able to use Father Ted to explain one of the more paradoxical aspects of Sade’s “career”.  How was it that he managed to be denounced as a “moderate” by French revolutionaries?  How could Sade have ever been “moderate” about anything?

You remember the scene in Father Ted where Mrs Doyle is presented with a tea-making machine, a machine that will produce perfect cups of tea at the push of a single button?  Remember the look on Mrs Doyle’s face when she was forced to accept this thing?  Remember quite how much she hated the machine and plotted its destruction?

Well, that’s how the Marquis de Sade felt about the guillotine.  Unlike older, more personalised and “hands on” forms of inflicting cruelty, the guillotine promised a uniform…

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