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Acts of DesireWomen and Sex on Stage 1800-1930$
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Sos Eltis

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199691357

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199691357.001.0001

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Seduced Maidens and Resourceful Maids

Seduced Maidens and Resourceful Maids

Chapter:
(p.11) 1 Seduced Maidens and Resourceful Maids
Source:
Acts of Desire
Author(s):

Sos Eltis

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199691357.003.0002

This chapter identifies the common tropes, plots, and character types that run through the popular early nineteenth-century theatrical genre of seduction melodrama. It demonstrates the remarkably close affinity between seduction melodramas and contemporary sociological texts on prostitution, sharing underlying assumptions about female sexual desire. It also reveals more disruptive narratives and implications which run alongside the plays’ primary warnings about women's vulnerability, vanity, and passivity; the resourceful maids who accompany the fallen heroines offer an alternative narrative of resourcefulness and knowledge. This chapter also discusses the relation between nineteenth-century melodrama and narrative art, revealing a more complex relation than previously assumed between familiar Victorian plots and the ambiguities and multiple implications of theatrical tableaux in performance

Keywords:   seduction, melodrama, prostitution, tableau, realization, narrative painting, magdalen, theatre, fallen woman, regulation

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