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Title:Maisons de presse, Maisons de passe: Prostitution in the Parisian Literary Market, 1830 - 1923
Author(s):Grant, Jennifer
Director of Research:Bray, Patrick; Chaplin, Tamara
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Mall, Laurence
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Flinn, Margaret
Department / Program:French and Italian
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):French literature
Nineteenth-century France
Nineteenth-century literature
Literary marketplace
Abstract:Nineteenth-century French novels are replete with prostitutes. These fictionalized versions of Paris’ real population of venal women and men usually possess an exceptional spirit; yet over the course of the narrative, they are consistently removed from public circulation in society. Literary critics such as Charles Bernheimer have adeptly shown that a desire for narrative control over the prostitute reveals a prevailing anxiety surrounding gender—and more specifically, female sexuality—in nineteenth-century France. My work demonstrates that this anxiety also has a material component, one that was both specific to, and endangered, the evolving Parisian literary marketplace. Furthermore, I show that the evolution in depictions of prostitution indicates that the threat came not only from women, but from another non-dominant group that benefited from education reform and a wider availability of reading material: the working class. In this dissertation, I analyse prefaces to slang dictionaries and scenes in novels in which venal characters read and/or write: moments where the prostitute as subject collapses into metaphor. I use these as an interpretive lens for understanding how authors from Balzac to Proust might turn to an illicit subject to further their careers. I argue that depictions of reading and writing prostitutes make the venal body an effective, but perilous, site for the production of new ideas about the professional writer. Effective, in that the ideas the novels supported continue to echo in current Western notions of genius, intellectual property and labor, and creative license. Yet perilous in that, as an image of intellectual venality, the literate prostitute risks mapping the venal body—sexed, gendered, and working class—back onto either the figure of the idealized author, or his body of work. At stake in this dissertation is a way of representing prostitution that contributed to the gendering of not only the professional author, but the public intellectual.
Issue Date:2016-04-22
Rights Information:Copyright 2016 Jennifer Lyndsay Grant
Date Available in IDEALS:2016-07-07
Date Deposited:2016-05

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