Eros et Labor: le (beau) sexe, le travail et le travail du sexe dans le Tableau de Paris de Louis Sébastien Mercier

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In Louis-Sébastien Mercier's lengthy 'Tableau de Paris' (1781-88), women's work, especially lower-class women's work, occupies an unusually large place. What figures prominently in Mercier's description are not working conditions or production but the female worker's sexualized body, her morality, and her social identity. His sketches and descriptions are strongly eroticized: work is considered a moral and physical testing ground for the fair sex. At work, disturbing and too obvious links are forged between eroticism and money; social inequalities between women are revealed with particular acuity in sexual work or prostitution; and female work also arouses old anxieties concerning women's role in the family and the private life. Tensions remain between a normative discourse on femininity (women must please and serve) and a social reality it is incapable of dominating.
Original languageFrench
Pages (from-to)227-257
Number of pages31
JournalClio: Histoire, Femmes et Societes
Issue number25
StatePublished - Jul 1 2007


  • PARIS (France)
  • Mercier, Louis Sébastien

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