Infamous Commerce: Prostitution in Eighteenth-Century British Literature and Culture

Cornell University Press, 2006

Rosenthal uses literature to explore the meaning of prostitution from the Restoration through the eighteenth century, showing how both reformers and libertines constructed the modern meaning of sex work during this period. From Grub Street's lurid "whore biographies" to the period's most acclaimed novels, the prostitute was depicted as facing a choice between abject poverty and some form of sex work. Prostitution, in Rosenthal's view, confronted the core controversies of eighteenth century capitalism: luxury, desire, global trade, commodification, social mobility, gender identity, imperialism, self-ownership, alienation, and even the nature of work itself.