Le temps au siècle des lumières: penser le présent et imaginer l’avenir
Graz (25-29 juil. 2011)

Plusieurs sessions concernent le domaine « Femmes, genre, Ancien Régime
  • A Session (AS004): Biographers of Eighteenth-Century Women and Their Uses of Time and Space
contact: Zinsser, Judith P.; Bour, Isabelle (zinssejp@muohio.edu)
In the last ten years, historians and literary critics have rediscovered many « women worthies » of the eighteenth century and written new biographies of them. « Women worthies » is the slightly derogatory term given to early feminist histories written in Europe and the United States that only concerned themselves with women already known to traditional history. Attention shifted in the 1980s and 1990s to lesser known figures, and efforts to recover their stories and integrate them into the larger historical narrative of the long eighteenth-century. Now, once again, scholarly efforts have accepted the importance of lives of these influential figures, of which Emilie Du Chatelet and Mary Wollstonecraft are but two of the most obvious examples. A critical study of these many versions of these women’s lives and the biographer’s craft is an appropriate subject for this international meeting.
Biographers of prominent eighteenth-century women have often had underlying agendas, goals beyond the simple narrative of a life from birth to death. For example, a feminist historian might seek early evidence of feminist ideas, a historian of science,experiments leading to significant discoveries. In fulfilling their varied purposes, biographers play with time, shortening some periods of the subject’s life, lengthening others. These choices assign relative importance to different sets of events. Similarly, the attention to spaces the subject occupies can be a valuable means of highlighting one and not another event. At the least, the spaces the subject occupies need to be transformed into images, whether of a boudoir or a boat on a lake in Norway. The more detail, the more significant the space appears. The presentations for this section will explore the uses of time and space in biographies of prominent eighteenth-century women. Each paper will discuss multiple biographies of the same subject and how the uses of time and space contributed to different versions of a particular woman’s life and reflect the biographer’s particular underlying agenda. Papers will be accepted in French and English.
  • A Session (AS011): Enlightenment Women Writing the Future
contact: Bostic, Heidi (Heidi_Bostic@baylor.edu)
This section relates closely to one of the key conference themes, « Time in the Age of Enlightenment: Situating the Present, Imagining the Future. » Compared with their male peers, eighteenth-century women writers generally had a different relation to the present and a different understanding of the future. Whereas men could project a future out of a past and present that had granted them some space for self-fulfillment and intellectual inquiry, women could not lay claim upon those same historical resources. Women were therefore differently engaged in crafting a new present out of which to create a future. Imagination was a necessary precursor to forging a new reality. And in their writings, progressive eighteenth-century women laid the groundwork for new understandings of self and society.
This section welcomes short presentations, which may be given in either English or French, about the work of women writers from various national traditions. A few examples of such writers include: Françoise de Graffigny, Marie Jeanne Riccoboni, Olympe de Gouges (France); Isabelle de Charrière (Holland/Switzerland); Hannah Callender, Elizabeth Sandwith Drinker, Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson (U.S.); Mary Astell, Eliza Haywood, Frances Burney, Mary Wollstonecraft (England); Sophie von La Roche, Marianne Ehrmann, Emilie Berlepsch (Germany).
Three factors contribute to the timeliness of this section. First, having moved beyond initial rediscovery of eighteenth-century women authors, we need to bring more of their texts into wider critical conversations and to read them in new ways. Second, the question « What is Enlightenment’ » remains open, lively, and pertinent, yet discussions of this question often overlook women’s role in Enlightenment. Third, feminist theorists continue to explore the issue of women and reason, but tend to neglect the historical role of women in the project of Enlightenment. All three of these perspectives stand to be significantly enriched by entering into dialogue with the others.
The presentations given in this section will challenge the notion that only men did the real work of Enlightenment. They will represent new approaches to the Enlightenment, asking: How did women write their present and future« How did they intend to organize their future« What were women’s reasons for turning their attention to the future » How would our understanding of the Enlightenment change if women’s intellectual contributions were taken seriously »
  • A Session (AS018): Imagining the Past as the Present: Gender and Primogeniture and The Concept of Ancient Rome as a Model for Modern Feminism
contact: Worley, Sharon (sharonworleyprof@cs.com)
My presentation examines women’s political activism during the French Revolution from the perspective of the Neoclassical canon of drama established during the reign of Louis XIV in the 17th cnetury and revived and promoted as an agent of republicanism during the French Revolution in the Eighteenth Century. For example, Jean Racinés Andromache and Phèdre were two of the most popular Neoclassical dramas performed and admired by Revolutionary women authors. The heroines, Andromache and Phèdre acquired a cult like following among feminists who used their tragic circumstances to voice the ironic dilemma of modern chauvinistic politics. Despite the egalitarian claims of the French Revolution, women continued to be objects of derision in the public sphere, and were denied representation in the early Republic’s National Assembly. Consequently, dramatic roles in theatre conducive to women’s issues, were promoted by emerging women authors during the Revolution. Writers such as Stephanie Genlis, Germaine de Staël and Olympes de Gouges used theatre as a means of articulating the feminist political platform. The penalties of censorship for politically active women during the Revolution could be severe. Gouges was executed by the Republic for her political views, Genlis was incarcerated by Napoleon, and forced to write works acceptable to him, and de Staël was exiled by Napoleon to Geneva and followed by police. Theatrical roles allowed women to avoid censorship to a degree, since their political sympathies remained disguised in the form of tragedy. The popular appeal of theatre among literate women can also be explained by the fact that they identified with the exclusion of actors and actresses as a pariah caste who, like women, were long denied the rights of citizenship (until 1791, when actors, but not women, were granted them). At her trial for the assassination of Jean Paul Marat,, Charlotte Corday, cited quotes from Voltaire« s Brutus in La Mort de César, ?My duty is everything, the rest is insignificant. » While actors gained full civil and ecclesiastical rights, and eliminated government censorship in 1791, women were still subject to gender biased restrictions on their freedom and political rights.
From the inception of royally sponsored French theatre, actors were identified as a lowly, impoverished caste. By promoting the cause of women’s suffrage through the genre of Neoclassical drama, women were using the subterfuge of theatre to acknowledge their repressed status. The ironic dichotomy between the high moral aims of Neoclassical theatre and the moral dissolute lifestyles continued to characterize the genre like the disparity between Classical pagan tragedy and Christian moral values. La Bruyère wrote, for example, « Could anything be stranger? A crowd of Christians gathers to applaud a company of reprobates, excommunicated merely because they provide pleasure. It seems to me that one should either close the theatres or be less severe on the actors. » Ancient and modern historiography and monarchy became intertwined as synonymous, and contemporary events were unravelled in the form of revolution and transgender identities. The issue of kingship and women as the vehicles of primogeniture was central to both plots of Racinés plays. For women, challenging primogeniture was a method of challenging the patriarchal society that resisted change. In roles of queens, royal mistresses, actresses and authors, or character roles such as Andromache or Phèdre, literary women addressed the social order that dominated the emerging culture of the modern era.
  • A Session (AS022): Le Temps des mémoires au féminin / The Time of women’s memoirs
contact: Seth, Catriona (Catriona.Seth@univ-nancy2.fr)
Le 18e siècle voit se multiplier, dans les différentes aires linguistiques et sous des régimes politiques très divers, des textes mémoriels écrits par des femmes – des femmes de lettres comme Mme de Genlis ou Mme de Staël, des femmes proches des cercles politiques comme Mme Roland, des artistes comme l’actrice Mary Robinson ou la femme peintre Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, des princesses comme Isabelle de Bourbon-Parme, l’épouse du futur empereur Joseph II, des femmes du peuple comme Victoire Monnard, des religieuses, des voyageuses (comme de nombreuses émigrées françaises) etc. Outre les femmes célèbres dont il vient d’être question, il y a nombre de personnes moins connues ou carrément oubliées. Leurs textes, de genres ou sous-genres nombreux (journaux intimes, journaux de voyage, mémoires etc.), ont souvent été rédigés à titre confidentiel et sans désir de publication. Certains sont d’ailleurs restés à l’état de manuscrits préservés dans des fonds d’archives publics ou privés. Cette section s’interrogera sur ce qui est dit du temps dans ce type de textes. Quels témoignages les mémorialistes nous offrent-elles sur le temps et sur leur temps’ Dans quelle mesure ces propos sont-ils sexués’ En quoi ces écrits contribuent-ils à la construction d’une identité au féminin’ Quelles variations peut-on attribuer à des questions de langue, de religion, de classe sociale etc.?
The 18th century witnessed a multiplication, in different linguistic areas and under very varied political régimes, of autobiographical texts written by women – women of letters like Mme de Genlis or Mme de Staël, women with political connections like Mme Roland, actresses like Mary Robinson or painters like Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, princesses like Isabella of Bourbon-Parma, the wife of the future emperor Joseph II, women of the popular classes like Victoire Monnard, nuns, travellers (like a large number of French émigré women) etc. Apart from the famous women whose names have just been mentioned, there are many others who are much less well known, indeed some who are all but forgotten.Their texts, in many forms and genres (journals, travel diaries, memoirs etc.), were often private documents, written with no intention of them being published. Some have remained unpublished, surviving in manuscript form in public or private archives. This section will consider references to time in such texts. What do these women authors have to say about time and about their time« « To what extent are there comments gendered’?How do these different texts contribute to the construction of a specific female identity? »What variations can be ascribed to language, religion, class etc. »