Les nuits de Paris, ou, Le spectateur nocturne. by Restif de La Bretonne, Rétif de La Bretonne, Nicolas Edmé Restif de la Bretonne. Paris: Hachette, Très Bon État. pages. Deux cartes. Les textes de Restif De La Bretonne retenus pour ce volume reproduits d’après les éditions. Nicolas-Edme Rétif or Nicolas-Edme Restif also known as Rétif or Restif de la Bretonne, was a involved, he was apprenticed to a printer at Auxerre, and, having served his time, went to Paris. The French novelist Catherine Rihoit made Restif de la Bretonne a major character in her novel La Nuit de Varenne.

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How many nights your deathwatch cries have made me flinch in the shadows of the night. Sad and lonely, like you, I wandered alone, in darkness, in this vast city.

Les nuits de Paris, ou, Le spectateur nocturne

The glow of street lamps is not able to destroy the shadows; on the contrary, they become more prominent: I wandered alone in order to know humankind. This small and today extravagant essay had lds immense influence during the eighteenth century. Oaris exactly what kind of public administration was this state brothel?

Ultimately, the state brothel could become a better model than the panopticon or the prison to conceive the functioning of new technologies of government invented within modern democratic European societies. On one hand, it unveils the fabrication of the modern colonial subject as desiring and sexual revealing hierarchies and segmentations within rrstif political management of organs penis, vagina, uterus and fluids semen, blood, milk, water. On the other, it shows how democratic subjugation links freedom and subjection, pleasure and terror: Other questions surface when exploring the modern relationship between submission and freedom, control and liberation, violence and love, power and pleasure, sovereignty and debt within the utopian projects of state brothels.

As if continuing their rivalry in the afterlife, the growing popularity of Sade during the twentieth century has increasingly overshadowed Restif. But the literary and parsi landscape of libertinage would be incomplete without recalling the deeds of the latter, who is almost totally neglected today. And it could be argued that without reading Restif, Sade remains incomplete. Sade and Restif dialogue with each other, they need each other. Not only do they fight, they also flirt via writing.

Together they compose a new European narrative that establishes the modern relationships between power nults pleasure, norm and sex, violence and sexuality.

Why have we forgotten Restif and remember Sade? European modernity fluctuates between Sadean and Restifian periods. Maybe we have forgotten Restif pairs we are too Restifist to remember him without panic or nuit. Whereas Sade represents the political imaginary of the archaic aristocratic society and prefigures extreme necropolitical, although almost always parodical modes of reaffirming male white sovereignty beyond religion; Restif, much more flexible, Christian, and politically chameleonic than Sade Restif worked as an informer both for the restir and the revolutionary police in France represents the complex unfolding of modern biopolitical technologies of government and the transference and modulation of sovereignty that characterizes the forms of democratic subjugation in Europe that were to come.

This training allowed him to use writing in an unprecedented way: He mechanized the restiif of handwriting, using the metallic frame as an abstract page connected to a printing device.

He wrote-published more than two hundred pamphlets, including illustrated erotic novels, plays, essays, reforming projects, and utopian tales, which collectively can be read as an underground chronicle of the prerevolutionary and revolutionary years in France.

His first success came in with the publication of Le Paysan perverti The Perverted Peasantwhich ensured his reputation laa libertine author in France but also in England and Germany, where the novel was immediately translated. Between and he published the largest sexo-political chronicle of the advent of the French Revolution, Les Nuits de Paris, ou Le Spectateur nocturne My revolution: Promenades in Parisa sort of restless diary of more than three thousand pages in which readers across Europe from Kant to Goethe could follow events in the Parisian city with cutting-edge speed.


Restif was the eighteenth-century ancestor of the contemporary kes, working in a medium of direct publication without editors in which the act of writing itself becomes public. His writing practice is an example of strategic reappropriation of the printing press as a technique of production and distribution of knowledge that anticipates the mutation of the modern citizen into a fast user and producer of information.

And as with the blogger and the Facebooker, for Restif, to write meant to publish. Even if many influential Europeans, including Goethe, considered Restif a major writer of his time, half a century was enough to disremember him.

During the twentieth century, Restif was reatif be rediscovered and reinvented twice, by two oppositional discourses on sexuality: Always almost, never yet. Every prostitute of any experience has known men who merely desire to gaze at her shoes, or possibly to lick them, and who are quite willing to huits for his privilege. Restif was a neurotic subject, though not to niuts extreme degree, and his shoe-fetishism, though distinctly pronounced, was not pathological; that is to say, that the shoe was not itself an adequate gratification of the sexual impulse, but simply a highly important aid to tumescence, a prelude to the natural climax of detumescence ; only occasionally, and resif de mieuxin the absence of the beloved person, was the shoe used as an adjunct to masturbation.


Restif wishes to subject the girl who attracts him, he has no wish to be subjected by her. Restifism was for Havelock Ellis a sort of modern urban sexual condition characterized by the taste for boots, whores, and muddy streets. What are we going to make out of all the Oedipuses, Electras, Bgetonne, Sacher-Masochs, and Restifs, that inhabit modern scientific psychology?

We will get better by inflecting or destroying the narrative. The second almost-coming-back of Restif into history happened with Surrealism.

Restif is the bootman not only for his adoration of feet but also for his embodying the condition of the urban nightwalker. On the frontispice of Les Nuits de Parishe is represented as a man walking at night with an owl on his head. The agencement of the human and the owl produces also a new aesthetic agent: For Restif there are two cities that coexist in the same geography: The night city is a ville negative15 dwelling within the interstices of restiff urban legal and moral territory.

The pornographer is the sexual cartographer of the underworld, drawing a map of the modern city with sweat and sperm. The pornographer was for Restif not only a spectator but also a new agent of technical urban management dedicated to map places of prostitution and to make political propositions to improve urban health and pleasure.

Pornography in the eighteenth-century political discourse named a new realm of biopolitical intervention that nits the first time joined architecture, medicine, and urban hygiene.

A new reatif of political management is bretonen announced by the invention of a new figure of successful social agency. Every hegemonic figure projects its own shadow, constructs its constitutive outside: As the historian of medicine Sander L. Gilman has stressed, syphilis was constructed within a political topography of sickness that opposed the outsidecontaminated and contaminating, to the inside, which was proper and healthy, a representation that coincided with the territorial pafis of colonial and national-state borders within modern Europe.

Les Nuits De Paris by Bretonne, Restif De La

Haiti occupies a crucial position within this colonial narrative. It is the place where the first anticolonial revolt of slaves will take place in The four H s that were said to characterize the AIDS carrier represent the reorganization of the sexopolitical disciplinary grid developed with the treatment of syphilis into new neoliberal techniques of political management: The syphilitic was the figure of the political outsider; at the same time, a new romantic image of the syphilitic as aesthetic agent was progressively being constructed.

In this context, the position of Restif was conspicuous: Restif was like Sade not only a pornographer in the eighteenth-century sensea writer on prostitution, and a client of street prostitutes but also a syphilitic himself. Foucault used the root noso – to stress the horizontal multiplication of new social technologies to manage health and sickness that exceeded the medical domain and the architecture of the hospital, including the policing of families, the treatment of the poor or orphans, and the monitoring of new variables such as topography and climate.

Following Foucault, the state brothel could be defined as a noso-architectural project. To each power regime corresponds a model of sick body, a specific management of life and death in space, a utopia of national and political immunity. With a more feminist perspective, he might have noted a more pervasive form of incarnation of sovereign power: Inscribed within a theological episteme, sovereignty is given by God and transmitted, through a patriarchal lineage, through bonds of blood—being sperm white male reproductive blood.

Western patriarchy is thus founded on a necropolitical definition of male sovereignty. In other words, within this power regime, masculinity and paternity are functions of the use and monopoly of techniques of violence. The history of feminism and queer movements could be understood as a collective effort to restrict violent patriarchal techniques and to inflect this necropolitical definition of sexuality and kinship.

It is within this new regulation of life, Foucault argues, where the body, sexuality, and space become areas of political management.

Each street is placed under the authority of a syndic, who keeps it under surveillance; if he leaves the street, he will be condemned to death. Each individual is fixed in his place. And, if he moves, he does so at the risk of his life, contagion or punishment.

With syphilis, a new body was fabricated. The body constructed by sovereign necropolitical power was a skin, and leprosy its political sickness. Developed before the invention of anatomic dissection techniques of displaying interiority that would emerge during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the sovereign body was a flat exteriority, a political surface where power inscribed its law with the aid of several necropolitical techniques.


If the necropolitical father was the figure that embodied sovereign power, disciplinary biopolitics invents a new body and new organs brftonne dedicated to the reproduction of the national race and health: New disciplinary techniques for governing the sexual body in space were implemented with the pathologization of masturbation, the prohibition of interracial reproduction via the Code noir decrees of andthe hystericization and domestication of female sexuality, and the confinement and privatization of female fluids especially menstrual blood and milk within the domestic space.

Right at the junction of the sovereign and the disciplinary pris, the modern sexualized and racialized syphilitic body was constructed within the tension between a sovereign skin in crisis and a complex interiority that had to be constantly disciplined.

The skin was a biomap of the Empire and its colonial expansion but also of its sexual and political fragility. The colonial fight for redefining sovereignty sexualized the borders of the Empire and the skin of the body, defining its limits as sexual frontiers. At the same time, colonial antagonisms racialized the skin as a public visual index where the truth of blood and racial purity could be read.

In terms of biopolitics of architecture, the history of prostitution in modernity could be read as a history of techniques of privatization of sexuality and rrstif segmentation of urban public space in order to produce immunity, as a way to spatialize fear and desire, power and pleasure, and to prevent moral or physical contamination. The word bordel itself is a trace of these topopolitical practices.

RÉTIF DE LA BRETONNE – University of Kent

Juits places considered to be spaces of contagion, the baths were understood not only as immoral but also as unhealthy. In France, aroundthe baths were closed and prostitutes relocated outside city limits. Street prostitutes were forced to occupy temporary locations that took the form of bords, wooden platforms where the women were exposed to public view. These precarious platforms were mobile architectures where exclusion and spectacle, surveillance and pleasure converged.

After the seventeenth century, two strategies of spatialization of sickness coexist to manage prostitution: During the first half of the seventeenth century, several thousand street prostitutes were deported to the Antilles.

Referring to a tension later articulated by Foucault to explain the shift from a sovereign power regime to a modern disciplinary biopolitical regime, 47 Restif opposed, in a programmatic paragraph about the management of urban prostitution, the old techniques of management of the leper to the new spatial techniques for dealing with the spread of syphilis within the modern city:.

Since the damage has already been done, there is no point in looking any further for a remedy. Of the two possible solutions, that of separating from society those who had been afflicted by contagion, as was the case before, with the lepers, was only practicable until they arrived in Europe from Haiti; the second, which consists in concealing all filles publiques, is less difficult to do: What happened to the sovereign necropolitical definitions of masculinity and paternity with the advent of biopolitical techniques?

Was male sexual sovereignty limited by the democratic social contract? The age of syphilis, which accompanied the expansion of colonial and industrial capitalism, was characterized by the mutation of a theological understanding of sexuality and reproduction into a new scientific model of sexual and racial identity. Much of the cultural anxiety generated by the political and colonial conflicts and their modulation of male European sovereignty took shape around various medical and governmental techniques for the treatment and prevention of syphilis, in particular around the use of the condom.

The state began to replace priest in policing motherhood by criminalizing infanticide and abortion, male obstetricians commenced their campaign to replace midwives in the delivery of babies, and writers of tracts on onanism and producers of condoms in effect launch the commercialization of contraception. Its medical prophylactic virtues were not scientifically proved until the publication by Daniel Turner in of Practical Dissertation on the Venereal Disease and its uses popularized within prostitution and war practices.

It was also a troubling limitation of male sexual reproductive power.


Bringing together contraception and prophylaxis, the condom materialized the threat to the free exercise of full male sovereignty inflicted by new disciplinary biopolitical nuit. Organically produced with a linen sheath or an animal membrane to be fitted over the foreskin of the penis, and dipped in a solution of salt or herbs, the condom as a genital variation of the plague beak-like mask was a genital mask, a second skin that entered into conflict with the ;aris definition of sovereignty, blocking the free circulation of sperm and jeopardizing male fertility.

The condom was the first somatopolitical technique intended to manage and regulate sovereign sexual masculinity: