English Honors Papers

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Michelle Neely

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This thesis explores how 19th century American and French male literary and visual artists’ representations of prostitutes channel men’s anxieties about the economic positions of women in the modernizing cities of New York City and Paris. The first chapter asserts that Stephen Crane’s Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (1893) depicts how the patriarchal capitalist system oppresses the prostitute, Maggie, and actual women of her era. The second chapter demonstrates how Emile Zola’s Nana (1880) voices male fears about the capacity of female merchants, such as Nana, a prostitute who sells her body, and individuals of the popular class to disturb the socioeconomic hierarchy by usurping power traditionally held by aristocratic and bourgeois men. The third chapter analyzes the paintings of John Sloan, an American painter, who depicts prostitutes in “The Women’s Night Court: Before Her Makers and Her Judge,” (1913) 1 “Putting the Best Foot Forward,” (1913) 2 and “Three a.m.” (1909). 3 This chapter additionally examines “Nana” (1877) 4 and “Olympia,” (1863) 5 works that also represent prostitutes by French painter Edouard Manet. The chapter claims that these paintings, similar to the aforementioned literary works, uphold the stereotypes of women embedded in the literary works while granting women more control over their bodies. While the American tradition highlights the prostitute as a victim of the patriarchal economy and at best an actor within it, the French tradition proposes that the prostitute threatens the patriarchal economic system. Overall, this thesis argues that the literary and visual representations of prostitutes in New York City and Paris channel male observations and concerns about the power of women within their respective, modernizing patriarchal economies.



The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.