Felicite De Genlis: Motherhood in the Margins

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1st Edition

240 x 160 mm. 304pp ... [In stock in Australia, for immediate delivery]

This book is a study of French writer/educator Felicite de Genlis (1746-1830) and examines the way in which she theorised the maternal role in her works and the manner in which she lived out her own maternity. Although she departed from the careless maternal mores that had prevailed for generations among aristocratic women, Genlis' views and praxis also contrasted with the restrictive concept of the mother's role that was taking shape in the interplay of philosophical and economic arguments in the late 18th century. She constructed a politics of motherhood that, while not entirely incongruent with the socially defined role, stretched and modulated its parameters.

The nature of Genlis' creativity is elucidated here in an exploration of the reciprocal relationship between her real and fictional motherhoods, as well as in an analysis of the literary motherhood she exercised in her advocacy for women's literary influence and in her practice of new and uncanonical genres.

The study begins with a chapter devoted to Genlis's early experience and knowledge of motherhood, first as a child in her relationship with her mother, then as a young wife giving birth to three children of her own and assuming, as well, a maternal role as governess to the royal Orleans children. The remaining chapters in Part 1 present models of motherhood found in Genlis's fictional works and in her correspondence, discussing the ways in which she expanded the maternal role, sometimes transforming it into a transgressive one through her development of its unconventional aspects. The second part of the study examines the originality of Genlis's literary matriarchy, investigating her theory and practice of marginal genres and generic innovation.

The 'margins' of the title thus allude to Genlis's efforts to manipulate both the margins of motherhood and the margins of literature, although it will be apparent that the two are not unrelated. At the same time, particular attention is given to characteristics of Genlis's work that have led to her marginalisation at the hands of critics: her literary fecundity, her controversial self-referentiality, and her abundant moralising. Traditionally seen as inconsistent with her worldly lifestyle and thus hypocritical, her persistent moral didacticism now tends to be judged more in terms of an artistic flaw.

This book offers new insights into the relationships between Genlis's life and her works, between her extreme productivity and debated creativity, and between socially endorsed maternal roles and the less conventional manifestations she resolutely explored and invested with virtue in her writings. Examining Genlis's religious beliefs and the relationship she sought to establish between the maternal and the divine, it argues that her religion, which inspired the anti-philosophie that long removed her from the cultural mainstream, paradoxically positions Genlis as a progressive in the Enlightenment querelle des femmes.

This book will be of interest to scholars of 18th-century literature, social and cultural history, and women's studies.

Bonnie Arden Robb is associate professor of French and associate chair of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at the University of Delaware.
^ Literary Criticism ^


SKU 9780874139990
Barcode # 9780874139990
Brand AUP
Artist / Author Bonnie Arden ROBB

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