The Rhetoric of Prostitution in Victorian England

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Laurie L. Lyda (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Mary Ellis Gibson

Abstract: This dissertation interrogates the network of social ideas and agents that rhetorically constructed the female prostitute through configurations of space and identity while participating in rhetorics of professionalization. While considering genre as cultural artifact (product) and social action (process), selected texts from diverse genres are analyzed, making transparent their claims about prostitution as articulated through representations of identity and space. Quite often, these claims were postulated through invocations of "contagion," which, as a cultural screen, operated to direct an audience's attention and interpretation. In addition, during the Victorian period, disciplines employed points of reference, like the prostitute, that within the dominant cultural codes facilitated their professionalization and carved their niches in the cultural milieu. Each chapter of this work analyzes a different genre (newspaper articles, medical treatises, and fictional works, respectively) to demonstrate how contagion anxieties influenced what the prostitute represented and how she was used rhetorically. This study is one of process and product, as spaces and identities are defined by expectations, functions, and locations. The spatial rhetorics of a genre define the dynamics between text, location, and conceptions of identity. This interdisciplinary study examines how the deployment of these ideas performs a social mapping and uses the prostitute as a navigational marker to guide readers' internalization of textual worlds and subsequent formation of knowledge.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2011
Identity, Prostitute, Rhetoric, Spatial Rhetorics, Victorian Period
Prostitution in literature
Prostitution $z England $x History $y 19th century
English literature $y 19th century $x History and criticism

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