By Sos Eltis
From seduced maidens to adulterous better halves, bigamists, courtesans, saved ladies and streetwalkers, the so-called 'fallen girl' was once a ubiquitous and enduring determine at the Victorian and Edwardian degree. Acts of Desire lines the theatrical illustration of illicit woman sexuality from early nineteenth-century melodramas, via sensation dramas, Ibsenite sex-problem performs and suffrage dramas, to early social realism and the well-made performs of Pinero, Jones, Maugham, and Coward. This learn finds and analyses enduring plot strains and tropes that proceed to steer modern theatre and movie. Women's illicit wants turned a theatrical concentration for anxieties and debates surrounding gender roles, women's rights, sexual morality, classification clash, economics, eugenics, and feminine employment. The theatre performed a vital function in either setting up and demanding sexual norms, and lots of playwrights exploited the ambiguities and implications of functionality to level disruptive spectacles of girl hope, organisation, power, and resourcefulness, utilizing ingenuity and talent to avert the keep watch over of that ever watchful kingdom censor, the Lord Chamberlain.
Covering an marvelous variety of theatrical, social, literary, and political texts, this research demanding situations the foreign money and validity of the common severe time period 'the fallen woman', and establishes the centrality of the theatre to cultural and sexual debates in the course of the interval. Acts of Desire encompasses released and unpublished performs, archival fabric, censorship documents, and modern reports to bare the outstanding continuities, advanced debates, covert meanings, and exuberant spectacles which marked the historical past of theatrical representations of girl sexuality. attractive with renowned and 'high paintings' performances, this examine additionally unearths the very important connections among theatre and its sister arts, tracing the alternate of impacts among Victorian drama, narrative portray and the radical, and exhibiting theatre to be a very important yet ignored point within the cultural background of women's sexuality.
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Extra info for Acts of desire: women and sex on stage 1800-1930
W. R. Greg, ‘Prostitution’, Westminster and Foreign Quarterly Review 53:2 (July 1850), 484. Prostitution, 27, 32–3. Ibid, 164, 239. Ibid, 272. 54 Once damaged, tragic consequences follow upon her ﬁrst taste of sexual knowledge: Coleridge, somewhere in his Table Talk, remarks that man’s morality is more dependent on strength of thought, and woman’s on force of feeling and pure instincts. From this it appears to result, that more men than women fall, but that more fallen men recover themselves than fallen women;—that more men than women are reclaimed from vice.
Where Hogarth’s print celebrates the harlot’s sexual energy and resourcefulness, as well as depicting the unscrupulous dealings that lose her a luxurious lifestyle, Haines transforms the picture into one about the impossibility of obtaining pleasure at the cost of sexual purity. The accuracy of the play’s realization of the print is unlikely to have extended to a display of the heroine’s naked breast, such a spectacle risking the revocation of the theatre’s licence and a prosecution for indecency, yet familiarity with Hogarth’s original not only provided a prurient draw but also a competing narrative to interact with Haines’s sanitized version.
William Logan’s The Great Social Evil (1871) provides a graphic demonstration of such logic taken to an extreme. 42 Logan does not locate the seamstress in an economic framework of class exploitation or the ruthless mechanism of a competitive capitalist economy; rather, her plight is framed by a disquisition on the evils consequent on women’s love of ﬁnery. Paid starvation wages by avaricious female employers to make gowns for callous female clients, the seamstress’s fate provides further evidence of the moral frailty of women.
Acts of desire: women and sex on stage 1800-1930 by Sos Eltis