Through the Reading Glass

Women, Books, and Sex in the French Enlightenment

By Suellen Diaconoff

Subjects: Women's Studies, History, French Studies, Literary Criticism
Series: SUNY series in Feminist Criticism and Theory
Paperback : 9780791464229, 276 pages, June 2006
Hardcover : 9780791464212, 276 pages, April 2005

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Table of contents


Introduction: The Reading Glass and the Politics of Virtue

1. Female Readers and l'espace du livre: A Quiet Revolution

2. Autobiography and Rereading
Manon Roland, 1754—1793

3. The Romance as Transformative Reading
Félicité de Genlis, 1746—1830

4. The Project of Desire: Constructing Reader and Reading
Isabelle de Charrière, 1740—1805

5. Reading Rape in the Culture Wars of the Eighteenth Century
Marie-Jeanne Riccoboni, 1713—1792

6. Books, Sex, and Reading the Fairy Tale
Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, 1685—1755
Jeanne Leprince de Beaumont, 1711—1780

7. The Periodical Print Press for Women: An Enlightenment Forum for Females

Conclusion: The "Other" Revolution



Argues that women's relationship to books and their promotion of reading contributed greatly to the cultural and intellectual vitality of the Enlightenment.


2005 CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title

Through the Reading Glass explores the practices and protocols that surrounded women's reading in eighteenth-century France. Looking at texts as various as fairy tales, memoirs, historical romances, short stories, love letters, novels, and the pages of the new female periodical press, Suellen Diaconoff shows how a reading culture, one in which books, sex, and acts of reading were richly and evocatively intertwined, was constructed for and by women. Diaconoff proposes that the underlying discourse of virtue found in women's work was both an empowering strategy, intended to create new kinds of responsible and not merely responsive readers, and an integral part of the conviction that domestic reading does not have to be trivial.

Suellen Diaconoff is Professor of French at Colby College. She is the author of Eros and Power in "Les Liaisons Dangereuses": A Study in Evil.