Catalogue


Infamous commerce : prostitution in eighteenth-century British literature and culture /
Laura J. Rosenthal.
imprint
Ithaca, N.Y. : Cornell University Press, 2006.
description
x, 270 p.
ISBN
0801444047 (cloth : alk. paper), 9780801444043 (cloth : alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Ithaca, N.Y. : Cornell University Press, 2006.
isbn
0801444047 (cloth : alk. paper)
9780801444043 (cloth : alk. paper)
contents note
A "cool state of indifference" : Mother Creswell's academy -- The "deluge of depravity" : Bernard Mandeville and the reform societies -- Whore, Turk, and Jew : Defoe's Roxana -- Fanny's sisters : the prostitute narrative -- Clarissa among the whores -- Tom Jones and the "new vice" -- Risky business in the South Seas and back.
catalogue key
5892675
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2007-02-01:
Rosenthal (Univ. of Maryland) offers an intriguing account of the changing figure of the prostitute in Restoration and 18th-century British culture. Tracing the transition from "prostitution as the embrace of pleasure" to "prostitution as the sacrifice of pleasure to business," she argues that early in the period prostitutes were represented as "desiring women," longing for sexual fulfillment and receiving payment only incidentally, but that over time they came to be depicted as enterprising capitalists who engaged in sex only incidentally, in the process becoming alienated from their labor. The author pursues this thesis through a satisfying mix of texts, some firmly canonical (Clarissa, Tom Jones), some quasi-canonical (Roxana, Fanny Hill), and some obscure (prostitute biographies, South Sea narratives). Rosenthal discovers new points of contact between gender studies and labor history, and along the way touches on industrialization, contractual relations, consumerism, societies for the reformation of manners, Jewish identity, and the history of the novel. Her close readings are sensitive and well informed; the book is also pleasingly readable and therefore accessible even to nonspecialists. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. J. T. Lynch Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Newark
Reviews
Review Quotes
"Infamous Commerce is not only the most comprehensive and insightful study of prostitution in the eighteenth century; Laura J. Rosenthal also gives us new historical and theoretical frameworks for understanding previously ignored connections between the most private and the most public forms of human experience: sex and labor."-Kristina Straub, Carnegie Mellon University
"Infamous Commerce offers a rich and interesting discussion of how the meaning and function of prostitution altered during the Restoration and eighteenth century. Rosenthal's argument is fascinating: while Restoration prostitutes were imagined as 'desiring women' who were only incidentally paid for sex, this construction of the prostitute gradually changed. By the end of the period, prostitution had become a sign for alienated labor, a focal point for all of the anxieties that industrialization, capitalism, and imperialism were visiting on the culture at large."-Kathryn Temple, Georgetown University, author of Scandal Nation: Law and Authorship in Britain, 1750-1832
"In this wonderful book about the representation of prostitution in eighteenth-century English literature, Laura J. Rosenthal unravels dominant British attitudes toward commercialism, contractual relations, consumerism, desire, and gender identity. In a series of astute and revelatory readings, she shows how the prostitute figures cultural responses to the alienating effects of capitalism from London to the countryside, and from the East and West Indies to the South Seas."-Ruth Perry, MIT
"Laura J. Rosenthal's Infamous Commerce is a groundbreaking book; it is both an exemplary cultural history and a first-rate work of literary analysis. It is a must-read for teachers and students in eighteenth-century studies, women's history, gender studies, the history of sexuality, and labor history."-Robert Markley, Romano Professorial Scholar, University of Illinois
"Rosenthal offers an intriguing account of the changing figure of the prostitute in Restoration and 18th-century British culture. Tracing the transition from 'prostitution as the embrace of pleasure' to 'prostitution as the sacrifice of pleasure to business,' she argues that early in the period prostitutes were represented as 'desiring women,' longing for sexual fulfillment and receiving payment only incidentally, but that over time they came to be depicted as enterprising capitalists who engaged in sex only incidentally, in the process becoming alienated from their labor. The author pursues this thesis through a satisfying mix of texts, some firmly canonical (Clarissa, Tom Jones), some quasi-canonical (Roxana, Fanny Hill), and some obscure (prostitute biographies, South Sea narratives). Rosenthal discovers new points of contact between gender studies and labor history, and along the way touches on industrialization, contractual relations, consumerism, societies for the reformation of manners, Jewish identity, and the history of the novel. Her close readings are sensitive and well informed; the book is also pleasingly readable and therefore accessible even to nonspecialists."-Choice
"What is most surprising about Laura Rosenthal's wonderfully textured cultural history of prostitution in eighteenth-century Britain is that it was not written earlier. Given the predominance of the whore's story in the period and 'the copious, even obsessive, writing about prostitution in the eighteenth century,' as Rosenthal rightly attests, the fact that no comprehensive survey of this literature had been published to date seems like a critical aberration that Infamous Commerce finally corrects. . . . Her book overflows with convincing and persuasive readings of individual texts because of the analytical simplicity and critical complexity of its historical thesis. . . . Infamous Commerce opens a flood of so many new possibilities (new texts, new readings, new histories) that it has immediately become an ur-text in the field. Every future scholar of eighteenth-century prostitution and prostitute narratives will cite this work."-Katherine Binhammer, Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, February 2007
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Bowker Data Service Summary
'Infamous Commerce' uses literature to explore the meaning of prostitution from the Restoration through the 18th century, showing how both reformers and libertines constructed the modern meaning of sex work during this period.
Main Description
In Infamous Commerce, Laura J. Rosenthal uses literature to explore the meaning of prostitution from the Restoration through the eighteenth century, showing how both reformers and libertines constructed the modern meaning of sex work during this period. F
Main Description
In Infamous Commerce, Laura J. Rosenthal uses literature to explore the meaning of prostitution from the Restoration through the eighteenth century, showing how both reformers and libertines constructed the modern meaning of sex work during this period. From Grub Street's lurid "whore biographies" to the period's most acclaimed novels, the prostitute was depicted as facing a choice between abject poverty and some form of sex work. Prostitution, in Rosenthal's view, confronted the core controversies of eighteenth-century capitalism: luxury, desire, global trade, commodification, social mobility, gender identity, imperialism, self-ownership, alienation, and even the nature of work itself. In the context of extensive research into printed accounts of both male and female prostitution-among them sermons, popular prostitute biographies, satire, pornography, brothel guides, reformist writing, and travel narratives-Rosenthal offers in-depth readings of Samuel Richardson's Clarissa and Pamela and the responses to the latter novel (including Eliza Haywood's Anti-Pamela), Bernard Mandeville's defenses of prostitution, Daniel Defoe's Roxana, Henry Fielding's Tom Jones, and travel journals about the voyages of Captain Cook to the South Seas. Throughout, Rosenthal considers representations of the prostitute's own sexuality (desire, revulsion, etc.) to be key parts of the changing meaning of "the oldest profession."
Table of Contents
A "cool state of indifference" : Mother Creswell's academyp. 17
The "deluge of depravity" : Bernard Mandeville and the reform societiesp. 42
Whore, Turk, and Jew : Defoe's Roxanap. 70
Fanny's sisters : the prostitute narrativep. 97
Clarissa among the whoresp. 129
Tom Jones and the "new vice"p. 154
Risky business in the South Seas and backp. 179
Conclusion : usury of the heartp. 199
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

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