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In The Book of the Courtesans, Susan Griffin offers true tales and informative anecdotes from the courtesans’ memoirs to further reveal how these cunning women seized their opportunity to become the West’s first female liberators, free to choose their own lovers and command remarkable respect. Griffin tears away the superficial veneer embodied in simplistic descriptions of woman as mere sexual 'objects' and unveils the character and the face behind what could cause nations to launch "a thousand ships", and what could cause society invariably to condemn and fear these women.
From Veronica Franco, who graced the palazzi of sixteenth-century Venice, and Madame de Pompadour, the arbiter of all things fashionable at Versailles, to La Belle Otero of the Grands Boulevards of Paris in the Gay Nineties and Marion Davies, who took Hollywood by storm, Griffin explores the many cultural manifestations and historical contexts within which the courtesan presents herself. She divides her chapters by the virtues endemic to the courtesan: Timing, Beauty, Cheek, Brilliance, Gaiety, Grace, and Charm. Dovetailing each of these sections is a glimpse into each of the erotic stations - flirtation, suggestion, arousal, seduction, rapture, saliely, and afterglow. An invaluable contribution to the canon of women's studies looking at the erotic.
"Scholars and general readers alike will welcome this fascinating and highly original book by a prolific and award-winning feminist author. Using the insights of women's history, Griffin (What Her Body Thought) creatively demonstrates the interplay between sex and power as she traces the tradition of the courtesan from ancient Greece to its demise early in the 20th century....she organizes her tale around key virtues displayed by the famed courtesans of the past beauty, charm, wit, grace, and brilliance among them. She demonstrates how courtesans used their talents to gain more power and independence than women of any class until well into the 20th century...Highly recommended."—Library Journal
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Prologue: A Legacy of Virtues; 1. Timing; 2. Beauty; 3. Cheek; 4. Brilliance; 5. Gaiety; 6. Grace; 7. Charm; Epilogue: In the End; Glossary; Bibliography