SURVEY: Is Sexing Up Classic Lit a Step Too Far?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka, Editor-in-Chief

old classic literature bookYes, we all know that Fifty Shades of Grey and its sequels sold some 50-60 million copies around the world last year. But does that mean that in the pursuit of sales we have to adulterate the classics — add a bit more T&A to Madame Bovary and some BDSM to Ulysses — to name a pair of classics that aren’t short on sex appeal?

Take the survey below.

In today’s feature story, ““How Do You Like Your Classic Lit: In a Ball Gown or Lingerie?,” Claire Siemaszkiewicz, founder of Total-E-Bound and publisher of the sexed-up Clandestine Classics series, she notes, “In a lot of cases, what our authors have done is to expand on the sexual tension that was already in the story, imagining what the author might have added if they were not as restrained by society.”

The argument is, as such, that in more permissive times (like our own) the authors would have indeed gone “full frontal.”

Whether that is indeed the case or not is up for debate. After all, there is no shortage of truly erotic and pornographic Victorian literature out there (complete with illustrations). Authors who wanted to write explicitly certainly had the opportunity and the publishers to make that happen. One might even argue that Flaubert and Joyce were opting for restraint, finding that suggestion is more seductive to the reader than, well…[insert your favorite sex trope here].

You might even argue that it will get more people to read the books. But isn’t one of the joys of reading a classic the pleasure of being in the hands of a master prost stylist? Reveling in their word choice, paragraph construction and plot progression?

So tell us, what do you think? Is sexing up the classics going to far? Or is it something worthwhile as a publishing exercise in its own right? Or should we all just lighten up and see it as a bit of fun?

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About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.