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Máire F. Cross, Reading trans-nationally

Reading trans-nationally: Flora Tristan as an advocate of other women’s writing “What a revolting contrast there is in England between the extreme servitude of women and the intellectual superiority of women authors!”

Transnational connections made by Flora Tristan are a key part of her originality. She was one of the most well travelled women of her generation and incorporated many of her observations of cities and nations into her works, Pérégrinations d’une paria, Promenades dans Londres and Le tour de France. Like her contemporary Alexis de Tocqueville she believed she was drawing up valuable scientific observations about society for future use. She included an indictment of patriarchy and class oppression in her severe critique of the societies in the emerging new Peruvian nation and the new industrial age in Europe. She was in touch with many prominent socialist writers throughout Europe.

Less prolific are the connections she made with women and especially women writers around these topics, the notable exception being Mary Wollstonecraft. In fact the evidence of her few direct contacts is rather scanty, amounting to some correspondence to supplement her published works.

In this paper I will begin by offering an explanation of why this was so and how her story was used by women across national frontiers in the second half of the nineteenth century. I then propose to present the historical context of occasions when Tristan did broadcast women writers’ work from other countries and examine how this affected her work and the contemporary interpretation of her as a writer. I shall use her correspondence to explore how extensive her contribution was to female networks in Europe during the mid-nineteenth century.

SvD, March 2008

  • Conferences > Chawton 2008 > Cross

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