By Sos Eltis
From seduced maidens to adulterous other halves, bigamists, courtesans, saved girls and streetwalkers, the so-called 'fallen girl' was once a ubiquitous and enduring determine at the Victorian and Edwardian level. 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 examine unearths and analyses enduring plot traces and tropes that proceed to steer modern theatre and movie. Women's illicit wishes turned a theatrical concentration for anxieties and debates surrounding gender roles, women's rights, sexual morality, category clash, economics, eugenics, and feminine employment. The theatre performed a valuable function in either developing and difficult sexual norms, and plenty of playwrights exploited the ambiguities and implications of functionality to degree disruptive spectacles of girl hope, corporation, strength, and resourcefulness, utilizing ingenuity and talent to avoid the keep watch over of that ever watchful kingdom censor, the Lord Chamberlain.
Covering an striking diversity of theatrical, social, literary, and political texts, this learn demanding situations the forex and validity of the fashioned serious time period 'the fallen woman', and establishes the centrality of the theatre to cultural and sexual debates through the interval. Acts of Desire encompasses released and unpublished performs, archival fabric, censorship documents, and modern reports to bare the wonderful continuities, complicated debates, covert meanings, and exuberant spectacles which marked the background of theatrical representations of girl sexuality. enticing with renowned and 'high artwork' performances, this research additionally finds the very important connections among theatre and its sister arts, tracing the alternate of impacts among Victorian drama, narrative portray and the unconventional, and exhibiting theatre to be an important yet ignored aspect within the cultural background of women's sexuality.
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Additional resources for Acts of desire: women and sex on stage 1800-1930
Haines’s The Life of a Woman; or, The Curate’s Daughter oﬀers a particularly intriguing example of such multifaceted operation. When the newly re-furbished Surrey Theatre reopened on 20 April 1840, it competed with the rival attractions of Greenwich Fair by announcing Haines’s The Life of a Woman, described on the playbill as ‘an entirely New Original Pictorial Drama of Interest, forming a VILLAGE TRAGEDY! . ’76 Following the Victo74 Jacky Bratton, ‘The Contending Discourses of Melodrama’, in Jacky Bratton, Jim Cook, and Christine Gledhill (eds), Melodrama: Stage, Picture, Screen (BFI Publishing: London, 1994), 39.
Fitzpatrick’s The Unfortunate (1858), and G. F. Watts’s Found Drowned (1867).
Repetition and reproduction of central tropes 84 Ibid. Review in Times (21 April 1840), 5. ‘Adelphi Theatre’, Times (19 October 1831), 4. 87 Peter Thomson, Introduction to Plays by Dion Boucicault (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1984), 6. 88 Melodramatic Imagination, 48. 85 86 40 Acts of Desire reinforced the power of these plots, making them so familiar as to be accepted as self-evident truths—such that social commentators and campaigners could assert their existence without producing evidence or statistics to support them.