Writing with a Vengeance: The Countess de Chabrillan's Rise from Prostitution

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University of Toronto Press, 2009 - Literary Criticism - 195 pages
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Writing with a Vengeance examines the life and works of a nineteenth-century French courtesan, Céleste Vénard, later the Countess de Chabrillan. A notorious Paris courtesan, Chabrillan married into the nobility, taught herself to write (penning two series of memoirs) and, upon being widowed, wrote novels to support herself - ten, between 1857 and 1885. These novels and memoirs constitute exceptional literary and historical documents, particularly as very few sex workers before the twentieth century have left written records of their lives.

Writing with a Vengeance intertwines the courtesan's autobiographical account of the horrors of her life on the streets with that era's political, medical, and cultural discourses surrounding prostitution. Though French society both silenced and refused to pardon the prostitute, Carol Mossman's literary analysis of Chabrillan's novels contends that it is through the process of writing itself that she arrived at self-forgiveness and ultimately refashioned for her damaged self a new identity and narrative.

 

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Contents

the wages of Shame
21
Mapping Prostitution and the Demimonde
43
fictions of Prostitution
72
La Sapho or Staging vengeance
101
Plotting exoneration
119
chabrillans final novels or the Uses of fiction
140
conclusion
156
Index
177
Copyright

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About the author (2009)

Carol Mossman is Professor of French and Director of the School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures at the University of Maryland, College Park.

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