Polishing the Public Sphere: Courtesans and Female Virtue in Eighteenth-Century British Print Culture
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Throughout the latter decades of the eighteenth century, popular print culture was a central arena for the negotiation of competing societal discourses. As the cultural narratives of elite libertine enlightenment and middle-class propriety vied for cultural dominance, their respective constructions of women, of acceptable femininity, and of female sexuality became a point of significant contention. This project traces the changing dynamics of that struggle for cultural hegemony through the changing depiction of elite courtesans and female sexuality in popular print culture.