Toilet Humour, or the History of Shit
Thanks to Robert Jackson, I was reminded of the existence of Dominique Laporte’s forgotten classic History of Shit – something I think I glanced at in the early 2000s when writing Digital Contagions. I never really dug into Laporte’s excavations of excrements, but was now reminded how wonderful and funny book it is. While offering a compelling (not without its problems in its strong reliance on psychoanalytic conceptual arsenal) multiple history of language/shit/public space/private individual as the modern ecology of subjectification, it talks as much about things that smell as it does about the various exercises to remove that inconvenient materiality. Stories of shit are about money, the subject, space, cleansing, materiality, toilets, makeup, privacy, urban design as well as, well, the thing itself.
See here for Jackson’s blog post about the book, and below a proof of its funny, quirky style and examples – as this letter from Madame la duchesse d´Orléans (1694) about the privileges and pleasures of the body – and its techniques, facilities.
“Fontainbleau, October 9, 1694
To the Electress of Hanover
You are indeed fortunate to shit whenever you may please and to do so to your heart’s content! … We are not so lucky here. I have to h old on to my turd until evening; the houses next to the forest are not equipped with facilities. I have the misfortune of inhabiting one and consequently the displeasure of having to shit outside, which gravely perturbs me because I like to shit at my ease with my ass fully bared. Item all manner of people can see us shitting; there are men who walk by; women, girls, boys, abbeys, Swiss Guards… As you can see, there is no pleasure without pain , and if we did not have to shit, I would be happy as a fish in water here at at Fontainbleau.”