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La femme de lettres


This reading focuses on the originality of Isabelle de Charrière’s contribution to several genres that she practiced, in particular the novel-tale, the theater, the essay-pamphlet and the letter. It highlights several “hedging” tactics that allow her écriture to question and revise her models’ discourse on concepts of the masculine and the feminine, reason and sensibility. It argues that Isabelle de Charrière was indeed an accomplished “woman of letters” not only because of her erudition but also and above all because of her independent mind and her aversion to systems and dogmatic thought. In the diverse genres that allowed her to express her thought and her female voice, her écriture literally squeezes into the dominant discourses of her time regarding society, reason, morals and the place of women. Ultimately, this sly, open, subversive écriture tells us the story of an adventure in reading, of a questioning in its unfolding, and allows us to see Belle de Zuylen / Isabelle de Charrière as first and foremost a reader of the Enlightenment.

SvD, July 2008

  • Publications > Volumes WomenWriters > Isabelle de Charrière > Marie-Hélène Chabut

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