• An Infectious Vessel: The Nineteenth-Century Prostitute Undressed

      Heaton, Sarah; Geary-Jones, Hollie G. L. (University of Chester, 2017)
      This dissertation serves as a literary ‘undressing’ of the nineteenth-century prostitute. It examines representations of the prostitute as both a physical and moral vessel of infection. To do so, the dissertation analyses representations from the common streetwalker to the prestigious courtesan, in both French and English novels including: Nana and L’Assommoir by Emile Zola, Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber, Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell, Mrs Warren’s Profession by George Bernard Shaw and La Dame aux Camelias by Alexandre Dumas Fils. The work analyses and deconstructs stereotypical depictions of the prostitute. It also examines societal anxieties concerning the prostitute’s status as an infectious vessel and source of contamination. Additionally, the work incorporates and examines artistic interpretations of the prostitute by French and English artists. The dissertation uses the aforementioned depictions to analyse how manipulation of external appearance disguised the prostitute’s true ‘infectious’ status. The work ascertains that clothing, body and behaviour were deliberately ‘dressed’ by the prostitute to convey respectability and morality. The dissertation establishes that this masquerade enabled the prostitute to avoid societal detection, condemnation and criminalization. It reveals that the prostitute was able to and did avoid any traits that revealed her true status. The work demonstrates that through the adoption of disguise, the prostitute was able to infiltrate and infect rigid social hierarchies. It analyses how societal corruption was made possible by deliberate adjustments to appearance and behaviour. The dissertation establishes that the prostitute could successfully mislead and corrupt ‘respectable’ society through a calculated guise of moral decency.
    • The Representation of Female Prostitution in Victorian and Neo-Victorian Literature

      Heeley, Kate (University of Chester, 2015)
      This dissertation discusses the representation of female prostitution in Victorian and Neo- Victorian literature by analysing the following texts: Oliver Twist, Mary Barton, The Crimson Petal and the White and Mrs Warren’s Profession. It analyses the stereotypical figure of the nineteenth century prostitute and looks beyond this representation by exploring image, maternity, female friendship and biblical symbols. The dissertation considers prostitution in Victorian culture as well as literature, and uses contemporaneous sources such as letters from Charles Dickens, newspaper articles and artwork in order to reinforce ideas. Ultimately the dissertation attempts to determine whether the prostitute was a powerful or a powerless figure by comparing the prostitutes in all four texts to each other and to their ‘respectable’ sisters.