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The Naked and the Nude

The Naked and the Nude


by Robert Graves

The Naked and the Nude Theme of Lust

If fine art is one end of the spectrum for a body without clothes, another might be pornography. That's a pretty wide spectrum, huh? And let's face it, getting too excited about art is usually considered to be poor form. In "The Naked and the Nude," lust becomes something like a threat. If a naked body is attractive, maybe it will spark lust. And that's a bad thing. Then again, if the nude seduces with its promise of cultural capital and artistic value, isn't that a bad thing, as well? That's the quandary "The Naked and the Nude" holds out for us.

Questions About Lust

  1. Why does the poet choose to pick on lexicographers? Why use them as expert definitions of the words "naked" and "nude"?
  2. Which seems to attract more lust: the naked body viewed by a lover or the nude? What lines help you to draw your conclusions? Why?
  3. Is desire described as a good or bad thing in this poem? Who's judging in this poem? How do you know?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Yay, naked. Even though it seems like nakedness is scorned by the artistic and cultural elite, the poem suggests that it's better than nudity.

Yay, nude. Even though nudity is described as cunning ("bold" and "sly") by the speaker of "The Naked and the Nude," it's actually described as doing the work art should do: it attracts attention.

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