Site de Benoît Melançon / Thèses canadiennes en littérature française du XVIIIe siècle

Dalton, Susan, «Engendering the Republic of Letters : Reconnecting Public and Private Spheres in Eighteenth-Century Europe», Montréal, Université de Montréal, Département d’histoire, thèse de doctorat, mars 1999, 1/6/iii/1/278 p. Dir. : Dominique Deslandres.

This thesis is a response to the Anglo-American and Italian scholarship on elite women in Italy and France at the end of the eighteenth century, and in particular the use of a private/public framework to define their political and intellectual experiences. By undertaking a close reading of the correspondence of four French and Venetian salon women—Julie de Lespinasse, Manon Roland, Giustina Renier Michiel, Elisabetta Mosconi Contarini—I have shown how their participation in the republic of letters necessarily mixed personal and professional considerations. In their letters, salon women propagated the values of civility and sociability: beauty, wit, spontaneity, transparency and sometimes charity and humanity were all cultivated and enriched through the practices of polite exchange (requiring modesty and discipline). The ethic of exchange as the means of improving society and æsthetics was particularly important and the gens de lettres worked hard to establish the conditions for its existence. Salon women not only systematically circulated the documents, criticism and compliments that made intellectual exchange possible, but they also ran errands, did favours, defended political and literary causes and made recommendations in order to show their commitment to other members of the republic and thus to the cohesion of the community. In other words, friendship and personal loyalty underwrote political and intellectual relations by mapping a social obligation onto a professional one to ensure that exchange would continue. In light of this evidence, it is clear the public/private framework is not a useful tool for studying elite women in France and Venetia in this period.

Couverture de Susan Dalton (2003)
Dalton, Susan, Engendering the Republic of Letters. Reconnecting Public and Private Spheres in Eighteenth-Century Europe, Montréal, McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2003, ix/206 p. ISBN : 0-7735-2618-8.

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