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Gillian Dow

Translation and reception of foreign women's writing in the Journal des Dames and the Lady's Magazine


Eighteenth-century literary journals and periodicals have yet to be fully investigated as ‘old sources’ that could tell us something new about writing women’s lives in the long eighteenth century, despite the excellent work carried by scholars such as Derek Roper and Antonia Foster for the British tradition, and Suzan van Dijk for the continental European tradition. This paper will explore two of the leading European literary periodicals of the latter half of this period: the French Journal des Dames (published between 1759 and 1778 [3 women editors]) and the English Lady’s Magazine: or, Entertaining Companion for the Female Sex (published continuously between 1770-1832 [women were also involved, but not as official editors]). With a varied (and mostly anonymous) editorial board and ‘amateur’ (and again, anonymous) contributors, these ‘old sources’ present particular challenges for contemporary scholars of women’s writing. How should we use these collaborative and collective projects, as scholars of women’s writing who seek to work collaboratively?

In my paper I will pay particular attention to what Julie Candler Hayes has called ‘gynocentric translations’ – that is, translations of female-authored texts by women – in the magazines, and I will focus on the reception of foreign writers. Can we see, for example, in the reception of Frances Brooke in the Journal des Dames in France and in the reception of Stéphanie-Félicité de Genlis in the Lady’s Magazine in England the creation of a European identity of the woman of letters in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century? Are anxieties about the writing and reading woman the same in these two rival nations? Is the English lady constructed in opposition to her degenerate French counterpart, as has often been assumed? Does the English ‘bluestocking’ attract criticism in the nation where seventeenth-century galanterie has not been forgotten? In this paper, I will use a reading of these two late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century periodicals to highlight that while new national politics and the Revolution in France were creating governments not just without women, but against them (to paraphrase Joan Landes), these magazines for women offered feminized cosmopolitan spaces for female creativity.

AsK, September 2012

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