By Sos Eltis
From seduced maidens to adulterous better halves, bigamists, courtesans, stored ladies and streetwalkers, the so-called 'fallen lady' used to be a ubiquitous and enduring determine at the Victorian and Edwardian degree. Acts of Desire lines the theatrical illustration of illicit woman sexuality from early nineteenth-century melodramas, via sensation dramas, Ibsenite sex-problem performs and suffrage dramas, to early social realism and the well-made performs of Pinero, Jones, Maugham, and Coward. This research finds and analyses enduring plot strains and tropes that proceed to steer modern theatre and movie. Women's illicit wants turned a theatrical concentration for anxieties and debates surrounding gender roles, women's rights, sexual morality, classification clash, economics, eugenics, and feminine employment. The theatre performed a important position in either setting up and not easy sexual norms, and lots of playwrights exploited the ambiguities and implications of functionality to level disruptive spectacles of girl wish, supplier, power, and resourcefulness, utilizing ingenuity and talent to stay away from the keep an eye on of that ever watchful nation censor, the Lord Chamberlain.
Covering an dazzling diversity of theatrical, social, literary, and political texts, this learn demanding situations the foreign money and validity of the common serious time period 'the fallen woman', and establishes the centrality of the theatre to cultural and sexual debates during the interval. Acts of Desire encompasses released and unpublished performs, archival fabric, censorship documents, and modern stories to bare the unbelievable continuities, advanced debates, covert meanings, and exuberant spectacles which marked the heritage of theatrical representations of girl sexuality. enticing with renowned and 'high paintings' performances, this examine additionally unearths the important connections among theatre and its sister arts, tracing the trade of affects among Victorian drama, narrative portray and the unconventional, and displaying theatre to be a vital yet ignored point within the cultural historical past of women's sexuality.
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Additional resources for Acts of desire: women and sex on stage 1800-1930
The melodramatic mode of pathetic suﬀering and tragic death provided the vivid scenes and heightened language in which the prostitute’s plight could most eﬀectively be delivered, in a way which underscored the urgency and horror of this ‘social evil’ without drawing accusations of indecency. It was not, however, simply a matter of employing the melodramatic as a convenient rhetorical device; it was also the lens through which facts and statistics themselves were viewed and interpreted. Surveys of prostitutes attested that the vast majority were aged between seventeen and twenty-three.
70 In seduction dramas where the fallen heroine ﬁnally marries her seducer, the main plot itself has a problematic relation to the melodramatic conventions of poetic justice. The disgraced maiden’s ﬁnal betrothal is at best an adulterated enactment of virtue rewarded: no matter how persecuted, the heroine’s wayward passions signiﬁcantly reduce her moral standing, while her lover’s lightning transformation from betrayer to betrothed could make him appear a dubious prize. Class operates as a crucial mitigating factor in this equation.
27 Watts Phillips, Lost in London. First performed Theatre Royal Adelphi, 1867. LCP, BL Add MS 53057G, II, i, 22. For further discussion of melodramatic depictions of the city see Katherine Newey, ‘Attic Windows and Street Scenes: Victorian Images of the City on the Stage’, Victorian Literature and Culture (1997), 253–62. 18 Acts of Desire the title is stated so often that ‘lost’ and ‘London’ begin to sound like synonyms. They close the play when Job ﬁnally pronounces them over the freshly expired corpse of his adulterous wife: job: She ha’ left us.
Acts of desire: women and sex on stage 1800-1930 by Sos Eltis