Fictions of the Bad Life

The Naturalist Prostitute and Her Avatars in Latin American Literature, 1880–2010

Claire Thora Solomon


Literary Criticism/Latin American; Literary Criticism/Jewish; Performing Arts/Theater/General
215 pp. 6x9

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Table of Contents


Fictions of the Bad Life takes the peripheral, vernacular, and even ‘schmaltzy’ prostitute and places her on the center stage of cultural analysis. Claire Thora Solomon asks how and what it means to read differently. Through her methodical, theoretically sophisticated act of reading, the prostitute has reemerged from her life imprisonment as the new ‘subject of history.’ Solomon’s book is not only timely, but highly relevant, filling a lacuna in the literature, theater and history.” —Ruth Tsoffar, Comparative Literature and Women’s Studies, University of Michigan

The first comprehensive and interdisciplinary study of the prostitute in Latin American literature, Claire Thora Solomon’s book Fictions of the Bad Life: The Naturalist Prostitute and Her Avatars in Latin American Literature, 1880–2010 traces the gender, ethnic, and racial identities that emerge in the literary figure of the Naturalist prostitute during the consolidation of modern Latin American states in the late nineteenth century. Solomon first examines how legal, medical, and philosophical thought converged in Naturalist literature of prostitution. She then traces the persistence of these styles, themes, and stereotypes about women, sex, ethnicity, and race in the twentieth and twenty-first century literature with a particular emphasis on the historical fiction of prostitution and its selective reconstruction of the past.

Fictions of the Bad Life illustrates how at very different moments—the turn of the twentieth century, the 1920s–30s, and finally the turn of the twenty-first century—the past is rewritten to accommodate contemporary desires for historical belonging and national identity, even as these efforts inevitably re-inscribe the repressed colonial history they wish to change.

Claire Thora Solomon is assistant professor of Hispanic studies at Oberlin College.