Engendering the Republic of Letters

Engendering the Republic of Letters: Reconnecting Public and Private Spheres in Eighteenth-Century Europe

Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Engendering the Republic of Letters
    Book Description:

    Being women provided them with a particular perspective, expressed first-hand through their letters. Dalton shows how Lespinasse, Roland, Renier Michiel, and Mosconi grappled with differences of ideology, social status, and community, often through networks that mixed personal and professional relations, thus calling into question the actual separation between public and private spheres. Building on the work of Dena Goodman and Daniel Gordon, Dalton shows how a variety of conflicts were expressed in everyday life and sheds new light on Venice as an important eighteenth-century cultural centre.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7152-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-10)

    Marie-Jeanne Roland, wife of Brissotin minister Jean-Marie Roland and host of a revolutionary salon, understood that, as Rousseau prescribed, women “should devote themselves entirely to domestic cares and virtues.” Nonetheless, she also recognized that she did not entirely fit this model, specifically with regard to the education of her daughter Eudora. She had breast-fed her with care but found the task of instructing her frustrating, calling it “the most difficult challenge I have faced.” Eudora had an intractable character and carefree temper that made it hard to discipline her. Worse, she was not particularly bright. Thus, although it “went against...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Elite Women in the Eighteenth Century
    (pp. 11-33)

    Philosophers have been discussing women’s intellectual capacities, their fundamental nature, and their proper social role since the beginning of Western civilization,¹ and the writers of eighteenth-century France and Italy were no different: a variety of French and Italian thinkers considered the “woman question” in order to address these very issues. The negative and positive views of femininity that were articulated in their work had tangible influences on women’s lives. On the one hand, arguments promoting a domestic role for women resulted in lower literacy rates and restricted access to education, government posts, and intellectual institutions.² On the other hand, arguments...

  6. CHAPTER 2 “The Most Excellent Men of the Century”: Julie de Lespinasse and Friendship in the Republic of Letters
    (pp. 34-54)

    Julie de Lespinasse was born the illegitimate daughter of countess Julie d’Albon and count Gaspard de Vichy in 1732. She was raised by her mother (who claimed that Lespinasse was actually the daughter of a fictitious couple, Claude Lespinasse and Julie Navarre) and spent her childhood in a chateau situated between Lyon and Tarare. She was eight when her father married her half-sister, to whom her mother had given birth in 1716 – the fruit of a failed marriage. Lespinasse’s mother bequeathed her an annual pension of 300 livres and a dowry of 6,000 livres. After the death of their...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Marie-Jeanne Roland, Woman Patriot
    (pp. 55-74)

    Marie-Jeanne (Manon) Phlipon, the future Madame Roland, was born an engraver’s daughter in Paris in 1754. As a girl she spent most of her time studying, reading such authors as Tacitus, Voltaire, and Helvétius. In a brief fit of religious fervour in 1765 she asked to be sent to a convent to study and become a nun. She soon abandoned this plan, and, in fact, only remained at the convent for one year.² During her stay she made the acquaintance of two sisters, Henriette and Sophie Cannet, who, in 1776, were to introduce her to her future husband, Jean-Marie Roland...

  8. CHAPTER 4 “Forging News According to Everyone’s Divergent Passions”: Giustina Renier Michiel in Venice
    (pp. 75-97)

    Giustina Renier Michiel was born on 14 October 1755 to a highly aristocratic family. Her paternal grandfather (Paolo Renier) was the penultimate doge, and her maternal uncle (Ludovico Manin) was the last doge of the Venetian Republic. She was educated in the manner of most noble girls, learning English, French, music, and art at a Capuchin convent in Treviso between the ages of three and nine. She also received instruction in mathematics and natural history. She married Marc’Antonio Michiel on 25 October 1775, and shortly afterwards the couple followed her father to Rome (he had been named the Venetian ambassador...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Elisabetta Mosconi Contarini: Veronese Matriarch and Woman of Letters
    (pp. 98-121)

    Very little is known about the life of Elisabetta Mosconi Contarini. In fact, the only significant biographical information published on Mosconi Contarini is contained in two books and one article.² Moreover, only one of these works – the edited volume of Mosconi Contarini’s letters published by Luisa Ricaldone – is devoted entirely to thesaloniera. The other two, Angelo Fabi’s article and Antonio Piromalli’s book, focus on Mosconi Contarini’s friend and lover Aurelio Bertola,³ providing information on Mosconi Contarini only in so far as it illuminates Bertola’s life.

    What we do know is that Mosconi Contarini was born in either...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 122-128)

    Studying the letters of French and Venetian salon women shows the extent to which they drew on a number of sources to justify their participation, as women, in the republic of letters at the end of the eighteenth century. On the one hand, they were aware of the body of thought that defined women as creatures without rational capacity or public virtue, as beings who were most suited to domestic concerns. Giustina Renier Michiel was mocked by her contemporaries for her interest in astronomy and castigated by her husband for her frequent socializing. As an avid reader of Rousseau, Marie-Jeanne...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 129-180)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 181-202)
  13. Index
    (pp. 203-206)