This introductory chapter sets the scene for Staël's hostility to Napoleon, her daring to write despite periodically suffering from the characteristically female ‘anxiety of authorship’, and the split between public and private life that helped define her existence. It describes how her besetting fear of boredom propels her into the chancy existence of the literary, political, and moral dissident, and situates her exile in the context of others — sexual as well as literary. Does Staël connive at the repression of woman or openly challenge it? Why does such an obvious feminist seem to advocate an acceptance of woman's inferior status? Napoleon, often seen as her greatest foe, grudgingly admires her: ‘She'll last’.
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