'Cautériser la plaie': The Lorette as Social Ill in the Goncourts and Eugène Sue

Throughout the nineteenth century, French writers projected their fears of contagion and social instability onto the figure of the prostitute, fantasizing that these problems could be eradicated through her destruction, containment or punishment. Indeed, Edmond and Jules de Goncourt, in their physiologie La Lorette (1853), and Eugène Sue in his short story "La Lorette" (1854), sought to seal off the prostitute’s threat in their writing by exposing her menace to society as the contagious purveyor of societal ills. Defining this literary figure through her social, historical, and economic context, this essay also underscores how and why the Goncourts and Sue protested her notoriety. (CAS)

Sullivan, Courtney A.
Volume 2009 Spring-Summer; 37(3-4): 247-61.