top_2_1.jpg top_2_2.jpg
Through the Reading Glass
Women, Books, and Sex in the French Enlightenment
Through the Reading Glass
Click on image to enlarge

Suellen Diaconoff - Author
SUNY series in Feminist Criticism and Theory
Price: $75.00 
Hardcover - 276 pages
Release Date: April 2005
ISBN10: 0-7914-6421-0
ISBN13: 978-0-7914-6421-2

Price: $31.95 
Paperback - 276 pages
Release Date: June 2006
ISBN10: 0-7914-6422-9
ISBN13: 978-0-7914-6422-9

Available as a Google eBook
for other eReaders and tablet devices.
Click icon below...

Available as a Kindle Edition.
Click icon below...

Summary Read First Chapter image missing

2005 CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title Award

Argues that women's relationship to books and their promotion of reading contributed greatly to the cultural and intellectual vitality of the Enlightenment.

Through the Reading Glas
s explores the practices and protocols that surrounded women's reading in eighteenth-century France. Looking at texts as various as fairy tales, memoirs, historical romances, short stories, love letters, novels, and the pages of the new female periodical press, Suellen Diaconoff shows how a reading culture, one in which books, sex, and acts of reading were richly and evocatively intertwined, was constructed for and by women. Diaconoff proposes that the underlying discourse of virtue found in women's work was both an empowering strategy, intended to create new kinds of responsible and not merely responsive readers, and an integral part of the conviction that domestic reading does not have to be trivial.

“Diaconoff distinguishes herself from recent efforts by feminist scholars to show evidence of subversiveness in prerevolutionary women’s writing by choosing a ‘quieter route’ and emphasizing a politics of virtue.” — Journal of the History of Sexuality

“Diaconoff … is a pioneer in reading the female novelists … In a series of excellent close readings, she introduces her consideration of the culture of reading and her understanding that books and reading projected new ideas that would eventually change society … Full of significant insights rendered in jargon-free prose, this book will excite neophytes and instruct specialists.” — CHOICE

“The argument is compelling and its illustration convincing—eighteenth-century women writers used the Enlightenment ideal of virtue to redefine it in terms that empowered them and their women readers. This redefinition engaged women, as writers, heroines, and readers, in a 'quiet' revolution of gender politics, demonstrating, contrary to doxa, that women could be both sensitive and rational, could be both embodied and spiritual, that they could value themselves as independent individuals. Diaconoff's insistence that this demonstration also traced an ethics of responsibility, communicated from writer to reader, and that this ethics constituted a new relationship between writer and reader, enabling and encouraging women to take responsibility for themselves and their intimates, is an original and powerful insight.” — Katharine Ann Jensen, author of Writing Love: Letters, Women, and the Novel in France, 1605–1776

“An important merit of this book lies in Dianocoff’s effort to read and discuss these women writers on their own terms, without judging them according to the ideologies of our own time. She has a rich historical sense, and she listens carefully to these authors, trying to imagine the full context in which they wrote.” — Janet Whatley, University of Vermont

Suellen Diaconoff is Professor of French at Colby College. She is the author of Eros and Power in “Les Liaisons Dangereuses”: A Study in Evil.

Bookmark and Share

Table of Contents


Introduction: The Reading Glass and the Politics of Virtue

1. Female Readers and l'espace du livre: A Quiet Revolution

2. Autobiography and Rereading
Manon Roland, 1754—1793

3. The Romance as Transformative Reading
Félicité de Genlis, 1746—1830

4. The Project of Desire: Constructing Reader and Reading
Isabelle de Charrière, 1740—1805

5. Reading Rape in the Culture Wars of the Eighteenth Century
Marie-Jeanne Riccoboni, 1713—1792

6. Books, Sex, and Reading the Fairy Tale
Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, 1685—1755
Jeanne Leprince de Beaumont, 1711—1780

7. The Periodical Print Press for Women: An Enlightenment Forum for Females

Conclusion: The "Other" Revolution



Related Subjects

Related Titles

Truant Pastures
Truant Pastures
Romantic Psychoanalysis
Romantic Psychoanalysis
Gendering Classicism
Gendering Classicism
Femicidal Fears
Femicidal Fears
Who Translates?
Who Translates?
Imagining Each Other
Imagining Each Other
Particularism and Universalism in Modern Jewish Thought
Particularism and Universalism in Modern Jewish Thought
The Biography of
The Biography of "the Idea of Literature"