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Fictions of the Bad Life

The Naturalist Prostitute and Her Avatars in Latin American Literature, 1880–2010

Claire Thora Solomon

Publication Year: 2014

The first comprehensive and interdisciplinary study of the prostitute in Latin American literature, Claire Thora Solomon’s book The Naturalist Prostitute and Her Avatars in Latin American Literature, 1880–2010 shows the gender, ethnic, and racial identities that emerge in the literary figure of the prostitute during the consolidation of modern Latin American states in the late nineteenth century in the literary genre of Naturalism. Solomon first examines how legal, medical, and philosophical thought converged in Naturalist literature of prostitution. She then traces the persistence of these styles, themes, and stereotypes about women, sex, ethnicity, and race in the twentieth and twenty-first century literature with a particular emphasis on the historical fiction of prostitution and its selective reconstruction of the past. Fictions of the Bad Life illustrates how at very different moments—the turn of the twentieth century, the 1920s–30s, and finally the turn of the twenty-first century—the past is rewritten to accommodate contemporary desires for historical belonging and national identity, even as these efforts inevitably re-inscribe the repressed colonial history they wish to change.

Published by: The Ohio State University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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Table of Contents

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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-ix

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Introduction: Prostitution as a (Meta) Discourse

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pp. 1-6

The analytical potency of prostitution has to do with how “it”—prostitution—is always bound up with other discourses. It cannot be defined except in relation to and in the terms of philosophy, psychoanalysis, economics, history and—perhaps most obviously—law. Prostitution is included within the discursive purview of any discipline that criminalizes...

Part 1. The Metadiscursive Naturalist Prostitute in Latin America (1880-1930)

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1. The Emergence of the Legal-Medical-Literary Prostitute in Latin America

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pp. 9-50

In Latin America, prostitution came to its modern maturity as a discourse under the literary regime of Naturalism and in the aftermath of the political consolidation of the modern states.1 The literary specificity of prostitution—its images, its language, its favorite metonymies, its clichés and its aesthetics—was solidified during this time and within this literary...

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2. Living Coin: Literary Prostitution and Economic Theory

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pp. 51-88

The contradictory (non)identity of the literary prostitute can illuminate areas of contention in economic thought. Is the prostitute a commodity? A good or a service? A capitalist? A worker? Labor? Exchange-value or exchange itself? To the extent that the prostitute doesn’t fit easily into economic definitions, she suggests ways in which these categories...

Part 2. Minority Metanarratives: White Slavery and the Reinvention of Jewish-Argentine History (1990-2010)

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3. The Neo-Naturalist Reinvention of Jewish Argentina in Contemporary Historical Fiction about White Slavery

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pp. 91-132

We are about to fast-forward nearly seventy years—past the entire Latin American Boom and some of the most repressive military dictatorships of the continent—in order to juxtapose the emergence of prostitution as a discourse under Naturalism with a successful subgenre of contemporary historical fiction that rewrites this time period...

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4. Blanca Metafiction: Denarrativizing Jewish White Slavery

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pp. 133-170

While much contemporary fiction about prostitution in Argentina has reiterated a consensus around Jewish white slavery by which minority and state mutually legitimize each other’s transhistorical identity, there is also contemporary fiction that addresses the same historical phenomena yet finds in them a perpetual crisis of meaning...


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pp. 171-191


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pp. 192-208


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pp. 209-215

E-ISBN-13: 9780814271353
E-ISBN-10: 0814271359
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814212479
Print-ISBN-10: 0814212476

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2014