A Certain Emancipation of Women: Gender, Citizenship, and the Causes Célèbres of Eighteenth-century France

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Susquehanna University Press, 2004 - Law - 132 pages
This book analyzes court cases anthologized by Nicolas Toussaint Le Moyne Des Essarts in the 1770s and 1780s in which competing notions of honor clashed to bring litigants before the law. Arguing on behalf of their female clients, lawyers featured therein called for the liberation of women from tyrannical fathers, abusive husbands, public opinion, and even oppressive laws in the dozens of seductions, separations, rapes, and infanticides on which this study is based. Moreover, it exposes a liberatory moment, an opening, in which early republican constructions of female citizenship offered virtuous women, regardless of rank or status, strategic possibilities for establishing modern identities - defined as self-creating, autonomous, and capable of moral judgment and reason. While this study contributes insights to a lively conversation engaged by many scholars, its uniqueness stems from its exploration of genre in time and place: no one has yet published a book-length study of Des Essarts' Causes celebres. encyclopedic scope, as well as its popularity, makes it an important source for illuminating features of prerevolutionary discourse. Tracey Rizzo is an Associate Professor of History and Director of Women's Studies at the University of North Carolina-Asheville.

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Page 15 - Women and dependents were factually and legally excluded from the political public sphere, whereas female readers as well as apprentices and servants often took a more active part in the literary public sphere than the owners of private property and family heads themselves.
Page 17 - A home whose mistress is absent is a body without a soul which soon falls into corruption; a woman outside of her home loses her greatest luster, and, despoiled of her real ornaments, she displays herself indecently. If she has a husband, what is she seeking among men? If she does not, how can she expose herself to putting off, by an immodest bearing, he who might be tempted to become her husband? Whatever she may do, one feels that in public she is not in her place...

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