Make Love, Not War: The Legacy of Gershon Legman, 1917-1999.
Gershon Legman was a passionate scholar of sexuality and popular culture. His considerable body of work has influenced scores of people, and is still much to be reckoned with.
Legman's lifework life·work
The chief or entire work of a person's lifetime.
Noun 1. lifework - the principal work of your career
calling, career, vocation - the particular occupation for which you are trained dealt with erotic folklore--especially limericks, dirty jokes, and bawdy songs. His two-volume collection of limericks (1953, 1977) contains some 4450 examples in oral and written circulation. His Rationale of the Dirty Joke American social critic and folklorist Gershon Legman's Rationale of the Dirty Joke: An Analysis of Sexual Humor was first published by Grove Press in 1968; was later reprinted in hardcover by Indiana University, was years out of print until it resurfaced in prints by Simon & (1968, 1975) is an equally massive collection of jokes in popular circulation, ranging from mockery of blushing brides to scatology scatology /sca·tol·o·gy/ (skah-tol´ah-je)
1. study and analysis of feces, as for diagnosis.
2. a preoccupation with feces, filth, and obscenities. , incest, and castration castration, removal of the sex glands of an animal, i.e., testes in the male, or ovaries and often the uterus in the female. Castration of the female animal is commonly referred to as spaying. . In the 1990s, he edited Roll Me in Your Arms and Blow the Candle Out, two volumes of bawdy songs and other lore collected by the late Vance Randolph (Randolph, 1992a, 1992b). Other major works include an essay anthology titled The Horn Book: Studies in Erotic Folklore and Bibliography (1964) and his edition of Robert Burns' The Merry Muses of Caledonia (1965). Betweentimes be·tween·times
At or during pauses: "She took such tiny bites and set her fork down on her plate betweentimes" Anne Tyler. , he produced scholarly introductions to works like the Randolph (1992a, 1992b) collection, the anonymous Victorian erotic memoir My Secret Life (1966), Aleksandr Afanasyev's Russian Secret Tales (1966), and Mark Twain's The Mammoth Cod (1976). Articles, reviews, and translations also flowed, some in collaboration with Beverley Keith, his first wife, who died in 1966 (McLeish, 1980).
George Alexander Legman leg·man
1. A reporter whose job is to gather information at the scene of an event or by visiting various news sources.
2. was born into a Jewish family from Scranton, Pennsylvania in 1917, the end of American Victorianism and the debut of 20th century conflicts about world domination, culture, and sex. Interested early in the burgeoning of American sexual modernism, he worked as a young man giving lectures for the Birth Control League, journeyman-writing erotic and nonerotic material, and serving as research assistant for Robert Latou Dickinson Robert Latou Dickinson (1861-1950) was an American gynecologist and sex researcher. See also
n. pl. dil·dos or dil·does
An object that is shaped like and is used as a substitute for an erect penis. . For two years, he was bibliographer bib·li·og·ra·pher
1. One trained in the description and cataloging of printed matter.
2. One who compiles a bibliography.
Noun 1. and book-buyer for Alfred Kinsey (Dudar, 1984; Nasso, 1977; Scott, 1999).
His first publication--at age 23--foreshadowed the rest of his life: an essay titled Oragenitalism: An Encyclopaedic Outline of Oral Technique in Genital Excitation, Part I, Cunnilinctus cun`ni`linc´tus
n. 1. Same as cunnilingus.
Noun 1. cunnilinctus - oral stimulation of the vulva or clitoris
oral sex, head - oral stimulation of the genitals; "they say he gives good head" . Published in 1940 under the anagrammatic an·a·gram
1. A word or phrase formed by reordering the letters of another word or phrase, such as satin to stain.
2. anagrams (used with a sing. pseudonym Roger-Maxe de la Glannege, it was among the first substantial treatments of a practice deemed abnormal and obscene. The publisher was prosecuted and the edition destroyed. Legman later explained his "not having the courage to do the research [for fellatio A sexual act in which a male places his penis into the mouth of another person.
At Common Law, fellatio was considered a crime against nature. It was classified as a felony and punishable by imprisonment and/or death. ]" (Legman, 1969, p. 11), but with outside help for fellatio, irrumation, and "soixante-neuf," he published the complete Oragenitalism in 1969 (elegantly).
The year 1949 saw the publication of the book he wished most to be remembered for, and perhaps he shall be: Love & Death: A Study in Censorship. Rejected by "an entire alphabet of over thirty publishers" (Holmes, 1967, p. 25), this blistering, explicit, and exhaustively documented diatribe argued that not sex but violence--including the patriarchy's cruelty to women--is the real pornography. Although the idea no longer seems radical or outrageous, Legman was far ahead of his time. He took to distributing copies out of his Bronx living quarters, leading to harassment by the U.S. Postal Service The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) processes and delivers mail to individuals and businesses within the United States. The service seeks to improve its performance through the development of efficient mail-handling systems and operates its own planning and engineering programs. . Opting out, he moved to France in 1953.
Legman was self-taught, describing the New York Public Library New York Public Library, free library supported by private endowments and gifts and by the city and state of New York. It is the one of largest libraries in the world. as his university. He absorbed his intellectual grounding from psychoanalysis seen through a strong sense of sexual and social idealism. His views of homosexuality are a good example. As an American Jew living through the years of the Holocaust, and as a Freudian, Legman saw homosexuality connected not to gay liberation but to the open homosexuality of the Nazi leader Ernst Rohm and his Brownshirt thugs (Rector, 1981). Arising from traditional psychoanalysis and linked to his own enthusiastic heterosexuality, Legman's lifelong insistence that homosexuality is a perversion echoes an era now mostly forgotten and easy to misunderstand. Legman the radical critic and writer was deeply-apprehensive at the devil's mix of violence, misogyny, and homosexuality that Rohm and his minions embodied. Unlike modern right-wing critics of Kinsey, Legman was a radical with a radical agenda to elevate heterosexual love over the violence he saw coming from male-male bonding. No matter how his dislike for homosexuality reads today, it echoes a period of world-wide horror.
Legman spent 1964-65 as "writer in residence" at the University of California The University of California has a combined student body of more than 191,000 students, over 1,340,000 living alumni, and a combined systemwide and campus endowment of just over $7.3 billion (8th largest in the United States). , La Jolla. Disgusted by what he saw as mindless, drugged, anti-intellectualism, a perversion of everything he believed, he published The Fake Revolt in 1967. Late in his life, he worked on The Ballad: Unexpurgated unexpurgated
(of a piece of writing) not censored by having allegedly offensive passages removed
Adj. 1. unexpurgated - not having material deleted; "volumes of the best plays, unexpurgated"- Havelock Ellis Folksongs, American and British; a sequel to The Horn Book; and a lengthy autobiography sometimes titled Peregrine Penis. All three remained unfinished when Legman died in February.
A visit to Legman, in print or in person, plunges one into a rushing torrent of ideas, data, opinions, and exhortations, all connected expertly and with zest.
[H]is spiel was headlong, iconoclastic, funny, rash, irresistible. It was like listening to a Mencken version of a Lenny Bruce routine ... The atmosphere around him was so irreverent, so stimulating and above all so liberating.... that [it] made me feel disturbed, wearied, exhilarated, but always more alive when I saw him. (Holmes, 1967, p. 19, 27)
Scores of readers and scholars found him a captivating cap·ti·vate
tr.v. cap·ti·vat·ed, cap·ti·vat·ing, cap·ti·vates
1. To attract and hold by charm, beauty, or excellence. See Synonyms at charm.
2. Archaic To capture. if often infuriating intellect. Anyone writing to Legman would receive lengthy suggestions, references, and startlingly star·tle
v. star·tled, star·tling, star·tles
1. To cause to make a quick involuntary movement or start.
2. To alarm, frighten, or surprise suddenly. See Synonyms at frighten. penetrating insights about the letter writer. He entertained visits willingly from those daring to make the trip to France.
I (the first author) corresponded with him for 30 years, initially about origami The code name for Microsoft's Ultra-Mobile PC. See Ultra-Mobile PC. (the Japanese art of paperfolding), a passion of his together with Mozart's music. Later our letters turned to the study of sexuality. I made the trip in 1969, staying with Gershon, his present wife Judith, and their young son. His and Judith's willingness to write reams of long and serious letters--and to send free books--to an unknown young woman struggling with intellectual and personal curiosities is, in retrospect, quite amazing. Perhaps I absorbed most his perpetual drive to find nearly everything interesting and worth thinking about. Although I often disagreed with him heartily, we remained friends, and I recruited him to contribute a chapter on erotica erotica - pornography bibliography to Libraries, Erotica, & Pornography (Cornog, 1991).
Ira Reiss described visited Legman in the 1970s, talking for hours among piles of books and papers in the Legmans' still-unelectrified country home:
His 1949 book (Love and Death) was one of the first books I read when I went to graduate school, and it clearly said what took others decades more to realize--how our values are distorted when we glorify violence and criticize sex. On this same thought, he did say that he was the source of the phrase "make love, not war." (personal communication, March 14, 1999)
Legman claimed he invented the famous phrase in a lecture at the University of Ohio in 1963 (Dudar, 1984). Professor of American culture Bruce Jackson observed, "Legman is the person, more than any other, who made research into erotic folklore and erotic verbal behavior academically respectable" and who made accessible to other scholars material that scholarly journals had long been afraid to publish (Scott, 1999, p. 49).
A complete break with classic academia was his intense focus on content and meaning as opposed to form. Legman was, above all, "about" engagement: with life, people, ideas, and what one studies. "I consider sexual love the central mystery and central reality of life," he wrote. And "I believe in a personal and intense style, and in making value judgements [sic]. This is unfashionable now, but is the only responsible position" (Nasso, 1977, p. 526).
[F]or him, the goal of scholarship isn't the safe and elegant isolation and expansion of an unassailable apercu; rather, it is the considered reintegration of apparently disparate things so they can be seen as existing in a complex political and social and psychological continuum, a world in which everything counts. (Jackson, 1977, p. 112)
Legman's most lasting legacy will be in the memories and work of those who wrote and visited him. Despite Legman's legendary contentiousness, he could be tolerant of people who did not agree with him but were willing to be civil and friendly about it. He really believed in the phrase "make love, not war." And echoing the gist of his book, Love & Death, that phrase may be his best legacy to us.
Afanasyev, A. N. (1966). Russian secret tales: Bawdy folktales of old Russia. New York: Brussel and Brussel.
Burns, R. (1965). The merry muses of Caledonia (G. Legman, Ed.). New Hyde Park New Hyde Park, village (1990 pop. 9,728), Nassau co., SE N.Y., on Long Island; inc. 1927. It is a residential community with some manufacturing and truck farms. Nearby is the uninc. town of North New Hyde Park (1990 pop. 14,359). , NY: University Books.
Cornog, M. (1991). Libraries, erotica, & pornography. Phoenix, AZ: Oryx oryx (ôr`ĭks), name for several small, horselike antelopes, genus Oryx, found in deserts and arid scrublands of Africa and Arabia. They feed on grasses and scrub and can go without water for long periods. .
Dudar, H. (1984, May 1). Love and death (and schmutz): G. Legman's second thoughts. Village Voice, pp. 41-43.
Holmes, J. C. (1967). Nothing more to declare. New York: Dutton.
Jackson, B. (1977, Winter). Legman: The king of X700. Maledicta, 1, 111-124.
Legman, G. (1940). Oragenitalism: An encyclopaedic outline of oral technique in genital excitation; Part I.' Cunnilinctus, (writing as Roger-Maxe de la Glannege). New York: J.R. Brussel.
Legman, G. (1949). Love & death: A study in censorship. New York: Breaking Point.
[Legman, G.]. (1953). The limerick: 1700 examples with notes, variants, and index. Paris: Les Hautes Etudes.
Legman, G. (1964). The horn book: Studies in erotic folklore and bibliography. New Hyde Park, NY: University Books
Legman, G. (1967). The fake revolt. New York: Breaking Point.
Legman, G. (1968). Rationale of the dirty joke: An analysis of sexual humor; First series. New York: Grove.
Legman, G. (1969). Oragenitalism: Oral techniques in genital excitation. New York: Julian Press.
Legman, G. (1975). Rationale of the dirty joke: An analysis of sexual humor; Second series. Wharton, NJ: Breaking Point.
Legman, G. (1977). The new limerick: 2750 unpublished examples, American and British. New York: Crown.
McLeish, J. (1980, Summer). A bibliography of G. Legman. Maledicta, 4, 127-138.
My secret life (Vols. 1-2). (1966). New York: Grove.
Nasso, C. (1977). G(ershon) Legman. In C. Nasso (Ed.), Contemporary authors (Rev. ed., vol. 21/24, pp. 525-526). Detroit, MI: Gale.
Randolph, V. (1992a). Roll me in your arms: "Unprintable un·print·a·ble
Not proper for publication for legal or social reasons: unprintable remarks.
Adjective " Ozark folksongs and folklore. Vol. I: Folksongs and music (G. Legman, Ed.). Fayetteville, NC: University of Arkansas Press The University of Arkansas Press is a university press that is part of the University of Arkansas. External link
Randolph, V. (1992b). Blow the candle out: "Unprintable" Ozark folksongs and folklore. Vol. II: Folk rhymes and other lore (G. Legman, Ed.). Fayetteville, NC: University of Arkansas Press.
Rector, F. (1981). The Nazi extermination extermination
mass killing of animals or other pests. Implies complete destruction of the species or other group. of homosexuals. New York: Stein and Day.
Scott, J. (1999, March 14). Gershon Legman, anthologist of erotic humor, is dead at 81. New York Times, p. 49.
Twain, M. (1976). The mammoth cod, and Address to the Stomach Club. Milwaukee, WI: Maledicta.