Whoring the Fleur: Re-visioning the American Woman of the Town

Meaghan Malone

Abstract


Analyzing a range of nineteenth-century texts, this article argues that the spatially fixed and commodified literary prostitute is a curiousand ultimately inaccurateanalogue to the fleur. Immortalized by Charles Baudelaire, the fleur is European, male, and financially secure. A part of and apart from the crowd, he is anonymous and autonomous, independent even within his crowded metropolis. While twentieth-century discussions of female flerie frequently posit the prostitute as an example of a female fleur, this article complicates the assumption that female flerie could exist in nineteenth-century America. Restrictions on the literary prostitutes mobility undermine her potential for flerie, and in My Kinsman, Major Molineux, Arthur Mervyn, and City Crimes, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Charles Brockden Brown, and George Thompson present prostitutes fettered by their gender and profession. Associated with lax morals, physical contamination, and superfluous consumption, these women remain sequestered in the home, unable to traverse their cities independently or freely.

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