Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Anthony Russell

Second Advisor

Dr. Raymond Hilliard

Third Advisor

Dr. Louis Schwartz


Aphra Behn and Daniel Defoe both manifest a strong interest in the courtesan, a female figure whose unusual success wins her autonomy from sexual and economic subjugation. In order to remain self-governing, Angellica Bianca and La Nuche of Behn's Rover plays and Defoe's Roxana must pay singular heed to their economic self-interest while forsaking the prospect of genuine romantic love. However, whereas Behn's courtesans undergo sexual "reformations"--figured as the acceptance of love (and marriage) and the resulting loss of independence--to their economic detriment, Roxana maintains the emotional reticence that allows her to continue capitalizing fully on her sexual allure. By discarding the romanticism present in Behn's plays, Defoe offers less compromised social criticism, a more realistic depiction of the sexual and legal injustices that make Roxana's vice a defensible alternative to either scarce, drudging employment or the captivity of marriage.