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Unacknowledged LegislatorsThe Poet as Lawgiver in Post-Revolutionary France$
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Roger Pearson

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198754473

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198754473.001.0001

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The Woman Writer as Lawgiver

The Woman Writer as Lawgiver

6 The Woman Writer as Lawgiver
Unacknowledged Legislators

Roger Pearson

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines Staël’s works preceding De la littérature and discusses her situation as a woman writer. Born and raised at the centre of French political and intellectual life but debarred by gender from holding public office, Staël regarded writing as her only means of ‘lawgiving’. The chapter begins with the Lettres sur Rousseau, a declaration of faith in natural pity and ‘enthusiasm’ as the foundations of social progress. In her early treatises and political pamphlets Staël writes as a mediator—demanding mercy for Marie-Antoinette, urging peace between France and Great Britain, attempting to unite monarchists and radicals under the banner of moderate republicanism. In a male world of factional politics, Staël argues, women are well placed, by their nature and their very marginality, to promote a politics of enthusiasm that might complete the work of the Revolution through a rational and independent-minded programme of lawgiving directed at public opinion.

Keywords:   Staël, women writers, enthusiasm, Lettres sur Rousseau, war, French Revolution, Marie-Antoinette

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