Lust on Trial: Censorship and the Rise of American Obscenity in the Age of Anthony Comstock

A New Book by Amy Werbel

Let Anthony’s Punishment Fit the Crime, Life, 1906

Forthcoming from Columbia University Press (Spring, 2018)

Lust on Trial offers a new and unadulterated view of the risqué behaviors and complex sexualities of Americans in the Gilded Age and Progressive Eras, and a fresh perspective on legal efforts to expand civil liberties before World War I. Extensive new research conducted in dozens of public and private archives makes it possible for the first time to fully tell the story of Anthony Comstock’s censorship of American visual culture, and to publish examples of the “obscenities” he suppressed. Lust on Trial illuminates the complex relationship between censorship and cultural change, and offers thought-provoking insight to our nation’s long struggle to live up to the promise of the First Amendment.

About the Author

Amy Werbel is a graduate of Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges magna cum laude (BA 1986) and Yale University (PhD 1996), and the recipient of fellowships from numerous institutions, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her previous publications include Thomas Eakins: Art, Medicine, and Sexuality in Nineteenth-Century Philadelphia (Yale University Press, 2007), which was designated an “Outstanding Academic Title” by Choice magazine and praised in The New England Journal of Medicine as “a rigorous academic review that is readable and enjoyable.”

In addition to her scholarship on American art and sexuality, Werbel also served as a Fulbright Scholar for 2011-2012 at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies in Guangzhou, China, where she taught American studies and art history courses to graduate and undergraduate students, and lectured throughout the mainland on topics including censorship. Her most recent book, Lessons from China: America in the Hearts and Minds of the World’s Most Important Rising Generation (2013), reflects on these cross-cultural experiences. Werbel presently serves as Associate Professor of the History of Art at the Fashion Institute of Technology.