This essay examines the ingredients used by Dumas fils to concoct his popular novel La Dame aux camélias\. Setting out to write a best-seller, Dumas employs a complex textual strategy whose various strands are tied together by a medical narrative centered on notions of disease, contagion, and bodily fluids of various kinds. Fluids permeate Dumas's novel and fuel the narrative logic of a text whose success – its capacity to generate mass consumption – is predicated on the notion of influence. Tracing these notions in the novel one finds a gendered medical discourse that constructs "fallen women" as diseased and contagious. Sexually transgressive female pathologies and their bloody symptoms become the ingredients needed to concoct this story of female sacrifice and to turn it into a cautionary tale meant to discourage diseased desire and to safeguard patriarchy. Dumas fils refashions the literary trope of passion fatale as poison and disease, injecting it with new blood, the blood of the contaminated and contagious courtesan. (BCL)


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pp. 287-307
Launched on MUSE
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