Reviews

“Based on an impressive amount of research into both primary and secondary sources, Werbel’s writing possesses a scholarly formality, but also accessibility, elegance, and wit . . . fascinating, page-turning.” Publisher’s Weekly

 

“Werbel . . . offers a richly detailed examination of Comstock’s life and mission, which she presents as a cautionary tale for our own time, when evangelical Christianity seeks to impose its values on the nation . . . An incisive history of the futility of censorship.”
–  Kirkus Reviews

“Werbel’s art history lens draws particular attention to the visual material Comstock found unacceptable, including dozens of illustrative examples. VERDICT A thoughtful new addition to the literature on Comstock and 19th-century sexual mores.”
– Library Journal
“Amy Werbel’s Lust on Trial offers a brilliant analysis of the life and times of Anthony Comstock, the fiercely religious moralist who led the national campaign to rid the United States of sexual expression from 1873 until his death in 1915. As Werbel powerfully demonstrates, Comstock’s efforts to persuade the nation that such expression “corrupts the mind . . . and damns the soul” perilously threatene
d our nation’s separation of church and state. This lesson in how religious fanaticism can destroy our freedom is now more important than ever.”

 

“Amy Werbel probably now knows more about Anthony Comstock than anyone alive today. (And oh, how deliciously unpleasant some of that knowledge is!) There’s a sense of discovery that keeps this narrative moving.”
 
“In this vibrant history, Amy Werbel explores the legal and cultural battles surrounding the censorship of “obscene” materials in late nineteenth and early twentieth century New York. Lust on Trial not only mines the history of censorship and repression in a modernizing America, but also sheds light on its legacy for current debates.”

– Nadine Strossen, author of HATE: Why We Should Resist It with Free Speech, Not Censorship and immediate past president, American Civil Liberties Union (1991–2008)

“In this meticulously researched study, Amy Werbel traces the rise—and eventual decline—of the figure whose name became synonymous with censorship in nineteenth-century America. She delineates how Anthony Comstock’s policing of erotic imagery touched on diverse areas of the nation’s civic life, from religion, politics, and the law to art and popular culture. In so doing, she illuminates the distinctive commingling of prudishness and prurience that shapes the American cultural imagination to this day.”
– Michael Lobel, Hunter College, author of John Sloan: Drawing on Illustration