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16 - Between Romance and Social Critique: Staël and Women Writers of the Early Nineteenth Century

from Part III - After the Revolution: The Novel in the Long Nineteenth Century

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 February 2021

Adam Watt
University of Exeter
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The two main drivers of women’s novels between 1800 and 1830 were the love-intrigue and a keen interest in politics. The market played a part: readers craved love-stories but, as avid followers of the national upheavals of the period, they were not solely seeking escapism. Thus, for example, egalitarian perspectives often shape the plots of these women’s novels. Among those who performed a (sometimes precarious) balancing-act between ‘romance’ and ‘social critique’ were Stéphanie de Genlis, Adélaïde de Souza, Julie de Krüdener, Sophie Cottin, Sophie Gay and Claire de Duras. The linchpin was the celebrity Germaine de Staël, who set the agenda not only for contemporary novelists but also for many later ones, both male and female. With characters like the creative Corinne, as well as through feminist analyses and comparative literary criticism, she influenced writers throughout Europe and in the United States. For Staël, romance, Romanticism, history and social critique were interwoven. Her contribution to Western culture is increasingly highlighted by literary scholars and intellectual historians, and in 2017 France bestowed on her a significant accolade: publication in the prestigious Pléiade series.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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Further Reading

Astbury, Katherine, The Moral Tale in France and Germany 1750–1789 (Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 2002)Google Scholar
Astbury, Katherine, Narrative Responses to the Trauma of the French Revolution (Oxford: Legenda, 2012)Google Scholar
Astbury, Katherine and Plagnol-Diéval, Marie-Emmanuelle (eds.), Le Mâle en France, 1715–1830: représentations de la masculinité (Bern: Peter Lang, 2004).Google Scholar
Astbury, Katherine and Seth, Catriona (eds.), Le Tournant des Lumières (Paris: Garnier, 2012)Google Scholar
Counter, Andrew J., The Amorous Restoration: Love, Sex, and Politics in Early Nineteenth-Century France (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016)Google Scholar
Fairlie, Alison, Flaubert: Madame Bovary (London: Edward Arnold, 1962)Google Scholar
Ferber, Michael, Romanticism: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010)Google Scholar
Finch, Alison, Women’s Writing in Nineteenth-Century France (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000)Google Scholar
Fontana, Biancamaria, Germaine de Staël: A Political Portrait (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gilbert, Sandra, and Gubar, Susan, The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination [1979] (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1984)Google Scholar
Hamilton, Paul (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of European Romanticism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hufton, Olwen, The Prospect Before Her: A History of Women in Western Europe, 1500–1800 (London: HarperCollins, 1995)Google Scholar
Isbell, John, The Birth of European Romanticism: Truth and Propaganda in Staël’s De l’Allemagne (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pearson, Roger, Unacknowledged Legislators: The Poet as Lawgiver in Post-Revolutionary France: Chateaubriand – Staël – Lamartine – Hugo – Vigny (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Seth, Catriona, ‘Introduction’, in de Staël, Madame, Œuvres [De la littérature, Delphine, Corinne], ed. by Seth, Catriona (Paris: Gallimard, 2017), pp. ixxxxixGoogle Scholar
Waller, Margaret, The Male Malady: Fictions of Impotence in the French Romantic Novel (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1993)Google Scholar

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