This study demonstrates that three subjects traditionally discussed separately - prostitution, hysteria and the popular novel - share a discourse of marginality and of female marginality in particular, central to the 19th-century experience in France. Studying representations of female sexuality and the obsession with it in 19th-century France, Matlock scrutinizes contemporary debates on: tolerated prostitution; sexual continence; the relationship of female sexuality to madness; the dangers of literature. The contemporary fascination with prostitution provides a model for understanding the relationship between novel-reading and female sexuality in a world where the novel was considered dangerous, because it would awaken affections and introduce women to the world of sexual experience. Matlock uses studies of prostitution, trial reports, advice manuals and novels by Balzac, Dumas, Soulie and Sue to analyze the social, political, medical and literary issues supposedly evoked by female sexuality.
Publisher: Columbia University Press