Infertility and the Novels of Sophie Cottin

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University of Delaware Press, 2002 - Literary Criticism - 167 pages
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Sophie Cottin's story, little known to modern readers on either side of the Atlantic, may nevertheless be a perfect case study of a woman's "coming to writing" in post-revolutionary France. Left a widow and childless in 1793, Cottin published her first novel anonymously in 1799. Her works came to be appreciated by a wide and diverse reading audience across Europe, enjoying a popularity which endured long after her death in 1807. This critical analysis of the five major novels she produced in her lifetime explores the crucial connections between Cottin's self-perceived "defectiveness" and her literary production. Drawing upon modern research on infertility and its effect on human behavior, the study proposes that Cottin's writing bears the discernible traces of one barren woman's struggle, embedded in a pronatalist culture which assigned her little or no value outside maternity, to give meaning and eventual purpose to life.

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The Anger of Amelie Mansfield
Mathilde and the Miracle of Bagneres
Filial Devotion in Elisabeth

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Page 13 - Thus, towards the end of the eighteenth century a change came about which, if I were rewriting history, I should describe more fully and think of greater importance than the Crusades or the Wars of the Roses. The middle-class woman began to write.
Page 18 - Thus the whole education of women ought to be relative to men. To | please them, to be useful to them, to make themselves loved and honored by them, to educate them when young, to care for them when grown, to counsel them, to console them, and to make life agreeable and sweet to them— these are the duties of women at all times, and what should be taught them from their infancy.
Page 18 - Ainsi toute l'éducation des femmes doit être relative aux hommes. Leur plaire, leur être utiles, se faire aimer et honorer d'eux, les élever jeunes, les soigner grands, les conseiller, les consoler, leur rendre la vie agréable et douce ; voilà les devoirs des femmes dans tous les temps , et ce qu'on doit leur apprendre dès leur enfance.

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About the author (2002)

Michael J. Call is Professor of Humanities at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

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