Literary nudity

For folks interested in the theory of literature or literary criticism, there’s an interesting book review in the latest eSkeptic — Reading Homo sapiens. It didn’t deal with nudity at all, but was otherwise so interesting that I wrote a long article about it on another blog.

That article of mine didn’t touch on nudity either, but I think it’s worth raising the issue here.

In a nutshell, what I’m talking about is a theory of literature which considers it to be simply an outgrowth of something humans do naturally all the time: creating what-if stories about people (usually including themselves, possibly in disguise) that place them in interesting situations and attempt to figure out what will happen.

There have recently been a few naturist-themed stories that some people have self-published on the net or through vanity presses. But other than that, almost nothing I can think of in recent times. Decades ago, when naturism/nudism was still somewhat of a new idea, there were a few more mainstream pieces of fiction that featured it, such as The Cool Cottontail (1966), a mystery by John Ball and even earlier (1932) The Bishop’s Jaegers by Thorne Smith. Then there are various novels by Robert Rimmer (mostly 1960s-70s). More recently there was Ready, Okay (2000), which had a sympathetic teenage naturist character but otherwise had little to recommend it. And there was a really badly written novel The Metaphysics of Nudity (1996) by Eric Miller, which was essentially someone’s daydream about a cross-country trip of a guy and two young women, who all eventually get into a little skinny-dipping. And nudity has sometimes appeared in science fiction (especially Heinlein’s). But on the whole, there’s been very little (nonsexual) “literary nudity”. Especially not much with actual quality.

Why? If we could do something about this, it might help spread naturist ideas a little better.

Originally published August 7, 2005