Feminist Views of the Fallen Woman: From Hrotsvit of Gandersheim to Rebecca Prichard
Author(s)McCue, Lauren Gray
gender based violence
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AbstractThis dissertation recovers women playwrights’ examples of prostitution and severe forms of sex trafficking with the aim of providing a more comprehensive and diverse selection of theatrical materials that focus on the sex industry. I assert that the first western woman playwright, Hrotsvit of Gandersheim, authored three plays about prostitution (Abraham, Paphnutius, and Callimachus) that deserve inclusion in the western canon of drama because they influence popular portrayals of the figure of the fallen woman prostitute in Alexandre Dumas fils’ The Lady of the Camellias (1852), Arthur Wing Pinero’s The Second Mrs. Tanqueray (1893), Eugene O’Neill’s Anna Christie (1922), and Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire (1947). Moreover, they are essential to our understanding of plays about gender based violence and the fallen woman genre within the larger arc of theatre history. Chapter 1 tracks the containment strategies that American and European societies employed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to control prostitution and abolish white slavery. Chapter 2 develops the virgin/whore dichotomy as a theoretical lens through which I examine how the theatrical figure of the fallen woman is categorized, made vulnerable to gender based violence, and punished for prostitution to uphold a sexual and moral double standard. Chapter 3 focuses on tracing the four characteristics of a new dramatic figure, what I term the “sex trafficked been-to,” in Lucy Kirkwood’s it felt empty when the heart went at first but it is alright now, Rebecca Prichard’s Dream Pill, Cora Bissett and Stef Smith’s ROADKILL, and Catherine Cunningham-Huston’s The Walk. The “sex trafficked been-to” is (1) sex trafficked to either Italy or the UK; (2) originates in poor and rural areas of Nigeria; (3) is affected by liminal states and the blood oaths of juju ceremonies; and (4) is based on the backgrounds and testimonials of sex trafficking survivors. In contrast to the fallen woman who turns to God for redemption or the passive white slave awaiting heroic male rescue, the sex trafficked been-to has the self-determination to seek alternative futures, such as escaping from captivity and requesting political asylum.