Prostitution and subjectivity in late mediaeval Germany and Switzerland
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This thesis is a study of the problem of subjectivity and prostitution in the Middle Ages. Three legal case studies of unpublished archival material and one chapter focussing on fictional texts from late mediaeval Germany and Switzerland are used to investigate the conditions of prostitutes’ subjectification in law and literature. The thesis takes impetus from Ruth Karras’s recent articulation of the problem of prostitution and sexuality, seeking to engage critically with her notion of “prostitute” as a medieval sexual identity that might be applied to any woman who had extra-marital sex. In dealing with trial records, it also aims to make a methodological contribution to the study of crime and the problem of locating the individual. Chapters I-III examine the records of criminal cases featuring the testimony of prostitutes, or women who risked such categorisation, to consider the available subject positions both within and outwith the context of municipal regulation. Whilst acknowledging the force of normative ideas about prostitutes as lustful women, these chapters argue that prostitutes’ subject positions in legal cases were adopted according to local conditions, and depended upon the immediate circumstances of the women involved. They also consider trial records as a form of masculine discourse, arguing that an anxious masculine subject can be seen to emerge in response to the phenomenon of prostitution. Chapter IV expands this discussion by drawing on literary texts showing how prostitutes prompted concern on the part of male poets and audiences, for whom their sexual agency was a threat which belied their theoretical status as sexual objects. Note: Transcriptions of the legal cases making up chapters I-III are provided in Appendices A, B, and C.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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Embargo Date: 2023-08-08
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Print and electronic copy restricted until 8th August 2023
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