Acts of Desire Women and Sex on Stage 1800-1930

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2013-06-10
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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A study of theatrical depictions of illicit female sexuality, from seduction and prostitution to bigamy and adultery, from the beginning of the nineteenth century through to the 1930s, revealing the extraordinary continuity and endurance of plots and situations which continue to influence theatre and film today. Theatrical depictions of 'fallen' women served as moral warnings, but the performance history of these plays also uncovers comic celebrations of femaleresourcefulness and pleasure, which attest to the challenging and subversive power of the theatre and demonstrate playwrights' skill in evading the strictures of the stage censor. Offering a new understanding of plays by writers such as Pinero, Maugham and Coward, it also encompasses a huge range oflong forgotten plays from across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, producing an entertaining and often surprising picture of the vital role played by theatre in presentation, attempted regulation and covert celebration of women's sexuality.

Author Biography

Sos Eltis is a Fellow and Tutor at Brasenose College, Oxford University. She is the author of Revising Wilde: Society and Subversion in the Plays of Oscar Wilde (OUP, 1996), and of a range of articles on nineteenth- and twentieth-century drama, gothic fiction, and Oscar Wilde. She taught at St John's College, Oxford, and at Boston University, Massachusetts, before being appointed Fellow in English at Brasenose College in 1997.

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