by Alistaire Tallent
University of Delaware Press, 2024
Cloth: 978-1-64453-324-6 | eISBN: 978-1-64453-325-3 | Paper: 978-1-64453-323-9
Library of Congress Classification PQ637.A96T35 2024
Dewey Decimal Classification 843.082

Out of the libertine literary tradition of eighteenth-century France emerged over a dozen memoir novels of female libertines who eagerly take up sex work as a means of escape from the patriarchal control of fathers and husbands to pursue pleasure, wealth, and personal independence outside the private, domestic sphere. In these anonymously published novels, the heroines proudly declare themselves prostitutes, or putains, and use the desire they arouse, the professional skills they develop, and the network of female friends they create to exploit, humiliate, and financially ruin wealthy and powerful men. In pursuing their desires, the putains challenge contemporary notions of womanhood and expose the injustices of ancien-régime France. Until the French Revolution spelled the end of the genre, these novels proposed not only an appealing libertine utopia in which libertine women enjoy the same benefits as their male counterparts but also entirely new ways of looking at systems of power, gender, and sexuality.

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