By Sos Eltis

From seduced maidens to adulterous other halves, bigamists, courtesans, stored girls and streetwalkers, the so-called 'fallen girl' used to be a ubiquitous and enduring determine at the Victorian and Edwardian degree. Acts of Desire strains the theatrical illustration of illicit girl 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 learn finds and analyses enduring plot strains and tropes that proceed to steer modern theatre and movie. Women's illicit wishes grew to become a theatrical concentration for anxieties and debates surrounding gender roles, women's rights, sexual morality, type clash, economics, eugenics, and feminine employment. The theatre performed a valuable function in either developing and demanding sexual norms, and plenty of playwrights exploited the ambiguities and implications of functionality to degree disruptive spectacles of woman hope, enterprise, power, and resourcefulness, utilizing ingenuity and talent to avoid the keep an eye on of that ever watchful country censor, the Lord Chamberlain.

Covering an unbelievable diversity of theatrical, social, literary, and political texts, this learn demanding situations the forex and validity of the customary severe time period 'the fallen woman', and establishes the centrality of the theatre to cultural and sexual debates in the course of the interval. Acts of Desire encompasses released and unpublished performs, archival fabric, censorship files, and modern stories to bare the superb continuities, complicated debates, covert meanings, and exuberant spectacles which marked the historical past of theatrical representations of girl sexuality. attractive with renowned and 'high artwork' performances, this research additionally unearths the important connections among theatre and its sister arts, tracing the trade of affects among Victorian drama, narrative portray and the radical, and displaying theatre to be a vital yet missed point within the cultural background of women's sexuality.

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Extra info for Acts of desire: women and sex on stage 1800-1930

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For further discussion of modesty and Victorian concepts of female virtue, see also Peter T. ), Suffer and Be Still: Women in the Victorian Age (Methuen: London, 1980), 155–72. 57 Greg, ‘Prostitution’, 457. 58 Ibid. 59 Morning Chronicle, 2 March 1858, 5. 60 Ibid. 55 Seduced Maidens and Resourceful Maids 25 faithful reproduction of Greg’s analysis of such women’s motivations. Setting the two passages side by side, one a response to a theatrical production, the other serious sociological analysis, there is an extraordinary consonance of tone, imagery, and underlying assumptions.

73 Introduction, Victorian Melodramas, xiii. 74 Dorcas and Giddy’s ingenuity and determination interact with the central narrative of the heroine’s fall, with its attendant implications of female vulnerability and the need for seclusion and male authority and protection; their combination of ambition and resourcefulness suggests, however, that, with the necessary pragmatism and worldly wisdom, women are well able to fend for themselves. Further, as Bratton has observed, alternative systems of moral value are brought into play by the range of voices within the drama.

The more pragmatic, cynical or worldly voices heard in a melodrama interact with the tortured conscience and high moral tone of the suffering heroine’s central story; if read as a Bakhtinian dialogue, these plays do not present explicit and simple moral lessons, but instead offer a more open-ended debate on causation, social responsibility, and sexual morality. The multivocality and the interplay of competing moral systems within seduction melodrama can be seen most clearly within the often complex role of tableau in these plays.

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