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The Fiction of Enlightenment

Women of Reason in the French Eighteenth Century

Heidi Bostic

This book argues that women writers of the French eighteenth century claimed reason and contributed to Enlightenment. Eighteenth-century French thinkers in diverse fields repeatedly proclaimed that the light of reason becomes distorted when it passes through the lens of femininity. Women writers challenged this stereotype. Engaging both canonical and non-canonical authors, this study focuses on works by Françoise de Graffigny, Marie Jeanne Riccoboni, and Isabelle de Charriére. It treats texts across genres, ranging from their well-known novels to little-known, unpublished manuscripts. The book examines the fiction of Enlightenment in two senses: first, works of fiction can illuminate Enlightenment; second, current understandings of Enlightenment are fictional to the extent that they overlook women's works. Faithful to the eighteenth century, this study is also relevant to the twenty-first. It asks: How would current understandings of the French Enlightenment change if women's intellectual contributions were taken seriously? « less more »
University Press Copublishing Division / University of Delaware Press
Pages: 270Size: 6 3/4 x 9 1/2
978-1-61149-130-2 • Hardback • February 2010 • $84.00 • (£54.95) - Currently out of stock. Copies will arrive soon.
Heidi Bostic is professor of French and chair of the Department of Modern Foreign Languages at Baylor University.
Bostic skillfully discusses the relationship between the issues raised in their works and those of today's feminist critiques of reason and feminist standpoint epistemology. Her argument for the continuing relevance of those issues is also supported by pertinent visual illustrations that punctuate the book. This extraordinarily ambitious study, bringing to bear scholarship in literature, history, feminist theory, and gender studies, constitutes an important contribution to our understanding of the Enlightenment as it seeks to 'redress [a] blind spot in the Enlightenment intellectual heritage' (p. 20). It deserves a wide readership.
H-France Review