The censors of mid-eighteenth century France simply did not know what to do with the works of one Geoffrey-Jacques. This prolific pseudonymous writer cranked out novels and stories that juuuuust skirted the edge of the pornographic, but veered away in an almost compulsively skittish manner, back towards character-schtick, will-they-or-won’t-they plotting, and the occasional brush with the fantastic, often involving the main character’s automaton valet. It must have been quite frustrating for men who were used to reading the raunchiest material Enlightenment France had to offer — which could be very raunchy indeed — to be inundated with volumes of material swimming with such innuendo and sexual allusiveness, only to have the characters not engage but rather discuss popular plays and ballads of the day. “Sacre bleu!” we can imagine the censors exclaiming, “get on with it already!” But Geoffrey-Jacques, whoever he was, never obliged them.

Perhaps out of frustration, the main body of his work was allowed to be published, but were stamped with the unique label “Matieres Questionable,” a warning both to the pious and the prurient that the material within would satisfy neither. This is how the English translations, compilations of which are sold almost solely to students of early modern literature and the public sphere, or to the sort of people who randomly buy odd titles at academic used book stores, came to be known as “Questionable Content.”

(Note: I realize I broke format here. I’m not sorry!)


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