Graduation Year

Spring 2011

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Lisa Cody

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Rights Information

© 2011 Yoshan Kennedy-Churnac


This thesis discusses discourses surrounding the urban prostitute in mid-nineteenth century Paris and London. During the nineteenth century, sexuality became a topic of increasing concern and an outpouring of literature on deviant sexuality and ways to regulate it appeared from moral commentators, social scientists, and physicians. Different historical moments saw the prevalence of different approaches taken, whether it was through the moral counsel of religious pamphlets, or through the methodological approach implemented by medical journals and social surveys. My study will trace the evolution of sexual discourses on prostitutes as well as how their authors influenced attempts to regulate these women. My primary argument is that sexual discourses of this period were organized around definitions of normality and deviancy, the understanding of what constitutes respectability, and the desire to control marginalized populations. The discursive literature on prostitution that appeared during this century thus provides an indication of how power manifests itself in unseen ways and how the power of words can shape definitions of sexuality and deviance.