Date of Award
Open Access Thesis
Women and Gender Studies
Jessica Ouelette, Ph,D.
Wendy Chapkis, Ph.D.
Lisa Walker Ph.D
Women & Gender Studies, Department of English, sex work, feminist, gender dynamics, fin-de-siecle, patriarchy, counter-discourse, queer literature, hysteria, subversion, courtesan, advocacy, Zola, Rachilde, De Pougey, France, 19th-century, depictions
This thesis conducts a feminist analysis of depictions of sex work in fin-de-siècle, or turn of the19th-century, French literature. It draws connections between literature from this time period and the social and political forces that sought to eradicate female sexual autonomy. In the introduction, the political and social setting of fin-de-siècle France is explored, when sex work was widely prevalent and for many women offered a route to sexual and financial autonomy that was otherwise unattainable, much to the anxiety and irritation of the patriarchal forces in place.The first chapter analyzes Emile Zola’s Nana as a classic representation of the patriarchal fin-de-siècle fear of and resulting attempt to conquer feminine sexuality via the stereotyped figure of the sex worker in literature. In contrast, chapters two and three offer feminist counter-discourses that deviate from the traditional fin-de-siècle depictions of sexuality and protest the superficial depictions of the sex worker. Liane de Pougey’s Idylle Saphique and Rachilde’s Monsieur Venus each offer more authentic and multi-faceted portrayals, effectively illuminating the existence of the sex worker who was so often silenced and spoken for. The concluding chapter compares this dichotomy between literature and feminine sexual autonomy of the past to the very same dynamic today in the criminalization and censorship of sex workers and the opposing sex worker activism and literature. Although literature can be a force of oppression, it can also be a medium for agency- and with forces of oppression always comes the counter-movements of the oppressed.
Araujo, Nicole, "La Fille Publique: Depictions of Sex Work in Fin-de-siècle Literature" (2021). All Theses & Dissertations. 418.