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Title: Sex work and ingestion in eighteenth-century France
Author: Ellis, Catherine Rose
ISNI:       0000 0004 7226 0506
Awarding Body: Durham University
Current Institution: Durham University
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis explores the significance of eating and drinking to sex work in mid- to late-eighteenth-century French literature and culture. It combines close reading of alimentary details with historicised and more recent theoretical approaches to food studies, establishing how ingestion was used, understood, and depicted in fictional, polemical, and documentary material relating to sex work. This thesis reveals that ingestion was no mere detail or incitement to pleasure in sex workers’ lives. It was instead a fundamental part of sexual practice, a source of danger, and a literary symbol with which male writers could work through widespread concerns about female sexuality and the dangers of ingestion. Chapter One provides an overview of ingestion’s role in the eighteenth-century sex trade. Chapter Two explores mid-century police records on brothels and kept women to demonstrate how ingestion was not simply a matter of pleasure but was intimately linked to risk and vulnerability for clients, madams, and sex workers alike. Chapter Three considers ingestion’s symbolic significance in four texts discussing sex work reform, beginning with the genre’s English Urtext, Bernard Mandeville’s A Modest Defence of Publick Stews, and ending with Rétif de la Bretonne’s Le Pornographe. Chapter Four establishes how images of ingestion can reveal differences between apparently similar sex worker heroines, focusing on Margot la ravaudeuse and Vénus en rut. Chapter Five considers the role of ingestion in fostering sociability or division in two fictional collections of sex workers’ letters: Correspondance de Madame Gourdan and Correspondance d’Eulalie. Chapter Six explores the gendered differences between the male and female consuming bodies, examining ingestion as pleasure in texts with gigolo heroes: Ma Conversion, Le Petit-fils d’Hercule and L’Année galante. Chapter Seven concludes the thesis by considering the sex worker as a victim of cannibalism in Rétif de la Bretonne’s L’Anti-Justine.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available