The Whore's Story: Women, Pornography, and the British Novel, 1684-1830

The Whore's Story: Women, Pornography, and the British Novel, 1684-1830

by Bradford Keyes Mudge
     
 

This fresh and persuasively argued book examines the origins of pornography in Britain and presents a comprehensive overview of women's role in the evolution of obscene fiction. Carefully monitoring the complex interconnections between three related debates—that over the masquerade, that over the novel, and that over prostitution—Mudge contextualizes the

Overview

This fresh and persuasively argued book examines the origins of pornography in Britain and presents a comprehensive overview of women's role in the evolution of obscene fiction. Carefully monitoring the complex interconnections between three related debates—that over the masquerade, that over the novel, and that over prostitution—Mudge contextualizes the growing literary need to separate good fiction from bad and argues that that process was of crucial importance to the emergence of a new, middle-class state. Looking closely at sermons, medical manuals, periodical essays, and political tracts as well as poetry, novels, and literary criticism, The Whore's Story tracks the shifting politics of pleasure in eighteenth-century Britain and charts the rise of modern, pornographic sensibilities.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Bradford K Mudge's The Whore's Story is an important contribution to this project...a welcome addition to the literature on gender and sexuality in the period...with its thorough discussion of both familiar and obscure primary texts and its engaging readable style..."—ECCB

"The Whore's Story thus offers a new answer to the question of how writing that today is called the novel, and it sexuality as active agents-they became its subject....In spite of the large amount of literature already existing on the subject, Mudge finds new and striking examples."—Eighteenth-Century Studies

"The Whore's Story's most valuable contribution is in widening our understanding of eighteenth-century literary are diminished from view when we privilege one set of authors, or literary techniques, over another....In the early twenty-first century we have accepted the separation of literature from pornography as 'natural.' The Whore's Story asks us to rethink this assumption and provides a provocative literary history in which to understand pornography and literature as mutually dependent, mutually generative."—The Worldsworth Circle

"Makes an important contribution to the understanding of the genesis and historical development of pornography in 18th- and 19th-century England. The author makes the bold, yet fully persuasive, claim that women, as both literary producers and consumers, played a crucial role not only in the rise of the novel...but also in the ascendancy of pornography.... Wonderfully researched and beautifully written, this book will appeal to both students doing upper-division undergraduate work and scholars who desire a more complete picture of the development of the British novel and its early cultural context."—Choice

"A persuasively argued scholarly monograph and a good read.... Bradford Mudge's Monograph is an important study that will change our understanding of the evolution of erotic fiction."—Eighteenth Century Fiction

Kirkus Reviews
A reassertion of the female ingenuity that enabled market-minded English literary fiction and its unfettered alternate to flourish. Providing context via today's struggles over pornography (a term coined only circa 1864), Mudge (Sara Coleridge, 1989) evenhandedly pits Dworkin and MacKinnon's ordinances against the bottom line of performance artists such as Lydia Lunch: "Reality is an X-rated trip." With bite, he explicates the late-17th-century emergence of a cash-sex-fiction nexus—exploiting quack medical manuals, satires and sermons, and licentious verse—to unveil how Behn's high-flown Love-Letters between a Nobleman and his Sister ripened by 1830 into "Spinster" Mary Wilson's forthright Whore's Catechism. While masquerade entertainments provided rich opportunities for baroque prostitutes, independent women who wrote about passion for money were castigated as soulless fiends depriving the state of maternal benefits, infecting the body politic, and preying upon weak-willed men. Legal eradication failing, Defoe's shrewdly conceived Moll Flanders and Roxana affected last-minute rehabilitations. Richardson undertook to reform both novel and reader by celebrating Pamela, whose virtue—chastity—was richly rewarded on the marriage market (Fielding's Shamela, on the other hand, laughed). During King George IV's scabrous divorce trial, the prurient press took cunning Queen Caroline's side and made a fortune. While government turned justice into entertainment, porn finished emancipating itself from literature: nowadays it is the more "artistic" pornography that is most likely to be brought to trial.Periodprints (showcasing Rowlandson) quicken the argument, and excerpts sate curiosity about most of these backdated textual incendiaries. Only occasional jargon or excess recapitulations impede pleasure. One emerges with views enlarged: if the best things in life ought to be free, who foots the bill for censorship? A scholarly romp that furthers debate on just whose interests are served by suppressing or canonizing sexual representation. (26 b&w figures)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195135053
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
06/28/2000
Series:
Ideologies of Desire Series
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

Bradford K. Mudge is Associate Professor of English at the University of Colorado. His Sara Coleridge: A Victoria Daughter won the 1990 Choice Outstanding Book Award.

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