Mara Amster and Jerry Wells '12 Use Summer Research to examine 2008 Eliot Spitzer scandal

Research uses technology to aid data collection and analysis  


Mara Amster, a Randolph English professor, worked with Jerry Wells ’12 this summer to compare the narratives of 17th-century prostitution with news reports of the 2008 Eliot Spitzer scandal, in which the former New York governor was exposed as a client of a high-priced prostitution ring.

Wells and Amster used technology to record how many times each article used various words to describe Spitzer’s involvement with an escort service. They also made judgments about how each article weighed moral, sexual, and financial themes.

Their research revealed that the narrative about this issue has changed in the past 300 years. Earlier literature focused on the moral failures of the women involved in prostitution. Modern texts focus instead on why a man would hire an escort. “We still want to blame someone, but that blame has shifted,” Amster said.

The research from this project will be used as the final chapter in The Purchase of Pleasure: Representing Prostitution and the Early Modern Market, a book Amster is currently writing.