Though exile was meant to imprison her, it paradoxically gave Staël freedom as a thinker and writer, enabling her to be as active a dissident as any woman at that time was capable of being. Her life of absence and writing about absence and writing about absence — often in the extended sense of ‘difference’ or ‘otherness’ — generated a range of works of great literary richness and socio-critical importance. The way in which she combined liberalism, qualified feminism, and Europeanism with nationalism speaks especially loudly to readers today, however dated some of the literary vehicles of her thought may appear. As an outstanding writer and thinker in the ‘age of the celebrity’, she used her influence as a theoretical and practical activist to thwart tyranny (epitomized for her by the oppressive regime of Napoleon, who tried to restrict her mind and body and failed to do either). Exile, in her, generated experience and thence literature; so it became a tool she could use for disseminating the ideas that most effectively challenged despotism and best illustrated her abiding preoccupation with human freedom.
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