Integrating "Obscure" French Women Writers Into

the Undergraduate Curriculum

 

Elisabeth-Christine Muelsch
Angelo State University

This paper forms part of a panel in which the presenters seek to show how research in nineteenth-century French studies--often historical, social, critical and/or cultural in nature--can be integrated into the French literature classroom.

Even though the interdisciplinary domain of French cultural studies is well established as a research area--as documented by monographs and journals--teaching it can be particularly challenging as some more traditional university curriculums do not necessarily accommodate instruction in this field. However, more and more French Studies and Modern Languages departments in the United States are opening up to the idea of teaching cultural studies, challenging the preeminence of literary studies. Michael Kelly sees three possible reasons for this: 1) most French departments believe now that language teaching provides the main area of demand and potential growth (and not French literature) 2) French social and political studies have been re-valorized (as a consequence of the political thought of the late sixties; but also as a consequence of the recognition of French as a commercial language) and 3) the role of literature in contemporary society has changed. The printed word is no longer the main means of communication to transmit the dominant beliefs and values of the culture to which it belongs. (18 -19) While Kelly underscores that French studies allow for a variety of perspectives on French culture, reflecting the energy and diversity of those engaged in the field, he also mentions the potential risks and conflicts. (20)

One problem might arise out of the fact that the term cultural studies is often perceived as lacking a precise definition. As Sandy Petrey has pointed out 'language teachers tend to use the term to mean study of a foreign culture with a non-literary rather than a literary focus.'(382). Cultural studies do challenge cultural hierarchies and consider a much broader range of cultural artifacts worth an analysis than do civilization studies (Shiach). Cultural studies and literary studies do not have to be mutually exclusive. Indeed, teaching cultural studies elements as part of a literature course can significantly further a student's comprehension and appreciation of literary texts. In this paper I propose to present my reading of French cultural studies and the way I integrate them into French literature courses at Angelo State University.

My principal area of research centers on less well-known women writers and publishers from the July Monarchy and on writers' support organizations such as the Société des gens de lettres and the Académie des femmes, a women writers' and artists' organization. I am interested in women's participation in the production of mass-literature and I investigate their possibilities and abilities to establish a support-net work within a legal and economic framework designed to limit women's strength and political power. My methodological approach links historical, sociological, feminist, and literary studies and could be subsumed under the term French cultural studies. Shedding light on what were then, and certainly are now, considered minor women writers, investigating production conditions and studying where in the cultural and political field these women situated themselves, might allow for a better understanding of women's literature as a whole.

Applying my research insights and results in the French classroom is not only my personal interest as an instructor but is also encouraged by my institution which has generously supported my research and course development through two grants. With its strong cultural focus my research certainly enhances my teaching of a recently created French civilization course, which contains sections on the history of French cultural institutions, e.g., Académie française, Ministère de l'instruction publique, Société des gens de lettres as well as on women's education, but I also teach two upper-level literature courses, French Women Writers of the 19th and 20th Century and French Romanticism and Realism of the Nineteenth Century which allow me to integrate my research interests.

I believe that the knowledge of French cultural institutions and the way they control and influence the production of literature and art as well as the exposure to biographies of less well-known women writers, their writings, and their working conditions can form an important part of the undergraduate education of French majors or minors. This knowledge will allow them to acquire competence in French culture and literature, while at the same time developing critical reading and thinking skills. Sensitizing students to different texts, teaching what often has been classified as "low-brow" or "middle-brow" and littérature alimentaire , and reading these texts in an historical and cultural context, can and will improve a student's French and critical reading skills. As has been pointed out by other French instructors before me, the Francophiles of yesterday are not the Francophiles of today. Reading and cultural interests have shifted, and so have the demands placed on students, who often are required to have more cultural than literary competence. Reading texts which are not linked to buzz names like "Hugo" and "Baudelaire," but can be more easily grasped by the student who still has a limited competence in French, will help introduce the student to a critical understanding of French culture and literature in an often smoother way than can be done through complex literary texts.

There are strong indications that the reasons Kelly states for the growth of cultural studies in French and Modern Languages departments are also valid for the department in which I am working. Most of the French courses offered at Angelo State University are language courses. Those are also the courses with the highest enrollment, which might illustrate that the majority of our French students are mainly interested in acquiring a basic working knowledge of French. Upper-level literature and civilization courses are primarily attended by French majors and minors. No rigid reading list is required for French majors and minors, consequently the instructor is relatively free in the selection of reading material. Nonetheless, state exams such as the ExCET and the TOPT (Texas Oral Proficiency Test) that are mandatory for students who want to become teachers in the State of Texas, require study mainly in the area of vocabulary and contemporary culture. As these exams favor linguistic and cultural competence over literary competence, integrating cultural aspects into the teaching of literature becomes--also for this reason--an essential component of my courses.

The majority of our French majors and minors are students who would like to become French teachers in the State of Texas, although, gradually the demographics of our majors and minors are changing. More government and business majors now show an interest in pursuing a major or minor in French. Since they come to French studies with a different background than students in education, they express a strong interest in French social, political, and/or business studies. Overall, our students are very interested in learning more about French society and above all, about French business. In a recent poll conducted by our Modern Languages Department, close to 100 % of the French students stated that they would welcome the establishment of a course in Business French. In my literature courses, I strive to take these student interests into account. Even though students' motivations and values with regard to French Business Studies might be quite different from the goals set in a nineteenth-century French literature course, students usually leave my literature courses with a better grasp of social and economic relations within French society and a more elaborate French vocabulary for certain fields of production.

As is the case with the majority of today's undergraduate students in French, who seem to be more accustomed to TVs and VCRs than to books, our undergraduates do have a limited reading experience and often are reluctant to read longer texts. Besides, time constraints such as outside jobs and/or children--quite a few of our students are non-traditional students--do not permit them to read as much as one might wish for in a literature course. Nevertheless, I still feel strongly about providing students with a literary education, which will give them the basic skills to analyze literature. Having these skills will not only permit them to be more critical readers of a great variety of texts, a necessary skill for a broad spectrum of today's professions (e.g., advertisers, writers, legal professionals, etc.), but will also allow students to analyze gender issues within the French cultural market more fully. One might take here the example of the interrelation of genre and gender issues. My solution to overcome students' reluctance to read is to choose an array of short and easily understandable texts allowing me to investigate literature under formal literary criteria such as genre, narrative voice, romantic irony and so forth. We usually read texts such as contes, nouvelles, légendes, and histoires, including children's literature. Children's stories ordinarily have a simple plot and are easily grasped by students. On a literary level they permit me to illustrate style and genre differences. At the same time, the reading and analysis of these children's stories in a literature class allow me to problematize issues such as women's education and work, cultural values, and social and literary hierarchies.

Most of our French students are women who often are interested in the living and working conditions of other women, and who, through the readings, try to explore their own lives and identities. In order to keep students with little reading experience attentive in a literature course, I have found it helpful to begin by pointing out the similarities which may exist between the author or the protagonist of the story and the (female) reader in the undergraduate French classroom. Once the common points have been established (e.g., "we both have children and have to work, we both try to improve our economic situation, we both are interested in education to further our advancement in society and the betterment of society per se," etc.) it is easier to accept, analyze, and interpret difference.

In the fall of 1997, I taught a "survey" course in nineteenth-century French literature in which we read the following authors: Prosper Merimée, Eugénie Foa, George Sand, Alphonse Daudet, and Guy de Maupassant. I try to balance the percentage of male and female authors, which permits me to raise gender issues, but protects against any labeling such as "feminist studies" course, scaring off the more conservative student. Among the more famous names you also notice the less well-known Eugénie Foa, a femme auteur and founding member of the Société des gens de lettres and the Académie des femmes, one of the women on whom I focus in my research project. In the classroom, I use her life and works to illustrate working and writing conditions for women during the July Monarchy. Issues such as appropriate female professions, reasons why more and more women started to write, their subject matter and the kind of support-net work they had, were raised. The case of Foa also permitted me to raise religious issues. For example, what did it mean to be a woman writer belonging to a religious minority? More general issues such as women's education and women's legal status were also discussed.

Part of my semester program also dealt with the French literary market and the changing position of the author. I focused in particular on the developing newspaper industry under the July Monarchy which facilitated the rise in female authorship. As students often have preconceived notions about the journalistic profession, often quite glamorous, it was necessary to give them some insight into what it meant to be a journalist during those years. In this context the emergence of the roman-feuilleton with its economic and literary implications was discussed. Through the biographies and works read in class I tried to give examples of the working conditions of journalists and feuilletonists in France throughout the nineteenth century.

The first text we read was Mérimée's novella Mateo Falcone, a text the students initially perceived as difficult. I chose author and text for a variety of reasons. On a literary level, I wanted to show what a nineteenth-century novella is in comparison to a tale or legend, with a detailed analysis of the representation and role of the narrator. On a cultural level I wanted to illustrate the French romantics fascination with exotism (Corsica as a wild and untamed country dominated by violence and passion, a place juxtaposed to Paris, the probable place of origin for the narrator as well as for the greater part of Mérimée's readers.). I started teaching this particular aspect by pointing out the similarities which exist between nineteenth-century American images of Texas and Texan culture and French nineteenth-century images of Corsica. Both were perceived as territories in which passion and violence reigned, where "tough" men lived and/or worked in the mesquite or the maquis, and where a very high value was placed on honor. I also wanted to make students aware of Mérimée's representation of gender roles in this "uncivilized" Corsican society, a representation which implied that conditions for women in Paris were different. Using Mérimée's biography, I wanted to show how authors operated in a writers community (e.g., the salon culture so crucial for the networking of an author) and how the French state supported and recognized male writers by giving them administrative positions--Mérimée as inspecteur général des Monuments historiques and member of the Académie française. The section on Mérimée's Mateo Falcone ended with the assignment to write a literary portrait of one of the main characters, which allowed students to reflect on and apply formalistic literary as well as cultural knowledge acquired during the sessions taught on Mérimée.

The second text we read was Eugénie Foa's tale "Tirtza ou le divorce" first published in the bourgeois feminist Journal des femmes and later on as part of the book Rachel (Dupuy, 1833) , a collection of stories dealing with the condition of the Jewish woman, past and present. Before discussing the text, I provided students with some biographical information on Eugénie Foa. A Jewish femme auteur, even though she later converted to Catholicism, she had to face particular difficulties within the French literary market which was predominantly Catholic; this was especially true for girls' literature, Foa's major field of production. As an example, one could mention here that according to articles in the contemporary press (1840s), a favorable reception of Foa's oeuvre within certain salons was hampered by the fact that its author was Jewish. In this context, specific historical information on the emancipation of French Jews was provided as well as the noteworthy fact that literacy among French Jewish and French Protestant women during the July Monarchy appeared to be higher than among Catholic women. This brought us to the next issue, that of women's education and professionalization. There are quite a few good publications available on this issue. In previous classes on French women writers, I have used Writing Women's History: International Perspectives to give students a brief overview on the history of women in France. I introduced students to the legal status of French women, in particular divorce laws during the July Monarchy were discussed. I also provided students with additional information on the Journal des femmes . To help students understand the mission of this magazine I compared it to Ms., underscoring that a female publisher during the July Monarchy was facing numerous legal limitations and was also restrained in the choice of topics, e.g., journals published by women were not allowed to treat political issues. We discussed the general goals of the Journal des femmes as outlined in its "prospectus": to promote a better education for women, to encourage women's writing, to decrease the hegemony of austere Catholicism among women (implicitly to promote religious tolerance), to fight the marketing of young women into loveless marriages, to alter women's status within a marriage, and to fight for the right to divorce. Foa's story "Tirtza ou le divorce" was interpreted in this socio-historical context, answering questions such as "Why would a female reader of the 1830s be interested in this story?" and "What kind of female reader would be interested in these topics?"

Tirtza, heroine of the eponymous tale, in love with Nephtali, is caught in an act of unfaithfulness by her husband, who divorces her. Being divorced implies being killed, because as an adulterous woman, she will be lapidated by the masses. Although the punishment for Tirtza is harsh and exaggerated, even in the eyes of the 1830s reader, the morality of the story nevertheless leaves the reader, with the sensation that marriage and divorce laws have not significantly improved for women neither in Palestine nor in France. The plot of the story is situated in the past, before the destruction of the temple of Salomon, but not at any particular time, and in the end the reader is told:

Non loin des murs de Jérusalem on voit encore, à la porte du cimetière des Hébreux, deux pierres grises et rongées par le temps; en écartant la mousse qui les recouvre, on n'aperçoit ni noms ni dates; mais l'histoire de ces deux victimes [Tirtza and Nephtali] s'est conservée par tradition. La mère la raconte encore à sa fille au moment de la fiancer; et l'époux, qu'une absence oblige à quitter sa jeune femme, lui redit d'un air d'indifférence la fin malheureuse de Tirtza et de l'étranger Nephtali." ("Tirtza" 146)

The reader who throughout the story felt empathy for Tirtza, leading a slave-like existence in her husband's home, most likely will be surprised by the morality at the end warning the young woman to obey and to remain faithful even in a loveless marriage. Taking the story out of an exclusively historical context and making it part of the tradition in which the mother of the bride as well as the husband appear as the law's enforcers, permitted Foa to relate the story to contemporary divorce laws (or the lack thereof) which, equally inhumane, forced women to remain in loveless marriages and punished a woman's pursuit of happiness.

I pointed out Foa's own separation from her husband and the economic consequences and moral repercussions this had for her later life. Foa also used the fact that she had been abandoned by her husband to legitimize her writing for financial remuneration. This might illustrate that a bourgeois woman making a living needed legitimation, especially if she was married. In a second step, the story was read in contrast to Mérimée's novella. I first focused on the form of both texts and contrasted nouvelle and conte. I emphasized the underlying oral character of a tale. In other places ("Correspondance," 51-52), Foa underscored that she would rather tell tales than write them as she considered this more appropriate for a woman, thereby catering to the value system of her bourgeois readers. I demonstrated to students that Foa was aware of the fact that she, as an author, was transgressing the socially established gender boundaries in which writing belonged to the male domain. Because of this preconceived notion, women writers often chose genres which were more closely related to oral narration. Ironic as this may be, this choice, in turn, would, increase their chances of having the work accepted for publication. As an example, one could mention that a less well-known woman writer would stand a better chance of having a tale or children's story accepted than a tragedy. Second I focused on the exotism in both texts. Both texts contain stereotypical exotic elements. Both texts are set in regions which the nineteenth-century French reader associated with passion and violence, Corsica (Mateo Falcone) and Palestine, (Tirtza) and whose inhabitants s/he saw as being governed by strong emotions.

Again, as a concluding exercise, students were asked to compose a literary portrait of the young Jew Tirtza and of her much older, jealous, Jewish husband, le docteur Zimram. The written assignment made students aware of the stereotypical features given to the Other, the oriental man and the oriental woman. I briefly mentioned stereotypical representations of Jewish and oriental women in French literature, and I also referred to their representation in drawings and paintings of the period (e.g., Delacroix), pointing out the similarities which exist between the gaze of the reader and the gaze of the spectator (what does the author and/or painter want us to see?). Students were asked to compare Mérimée's and Foa's representations of exotic women, and came to the conclusion that women were represented as entirely subordinate to men (their husbands), that they were considered their husbands' property and that they did not seem to have a voice--Tirtza only speaks with her body (tears, begging eyes, embraces etc.). I also made students aware of the fact that Foa as a French Jew was fighting the cause of her less fortunate "exotic sister." She as an author and as an educated woman had a voice through her text, and consequently could take some sort of political action. Both Mérimée and Foa used gender inequalities to enhance the exotic imagery of their stories, but Mérimée rather used them to contrast French and Corsican societies, while Foa, in her conclusion, pointed to the inhumanity linked to gender inequalities in her time. I emphasized that Eugénie Foa would be very involved in supporting other women writers and artists later on in her life by being a co-founder of the Académie des femmes, fighting for appropriate recognition and remuneration of women writers' and artists' work. As many bourgeois women of the time, she also felt that she had to fight for the less fortunate women of the "lower" classes who lacked an education. In 1848, she therefore became the founder of the OEuvre de bons secours , a support organization for unemployed seamstresses.

The third text we read in class, also written by Eugénie Foa, dealt with a French woman writer; a woman who had a voice, too much of a voice as some jealous contemporaries said. "Elisa Mercoeur ou la petite institutrice," published in Six histoires de jeunes filles, is a story geared to younger readers. In this context, I pointed out that the genre "children's literature" is defined by its readership rather than by its form. I mentioned that the difference between literature for women and literature for girls was not always clear-cut. Foa published many of her stories simultaneously or consecutively in magazines for women such as La Gazette des femmes and in journals for children such as her own Le Livre de la jeunesse. She did this often out of financial need; and the fact that publishers did not necessarily differentiate rigorously between adolescent and female readers facilitated her ability to publish the same story for different audiences and to increase her financial profit.

Before we read the story in class, I provided students with some background information on the heroine of the story, the poet Elisa Mercoeur who had been, just as Eugénie Foa herself, a collaborator of the Journal des femmes. I reminded students that one of the goals of the Journal des femmes had been to provide a better education for women, and that increasingly women who received a better education became educators themselves (For a short overview on women as educators in rural France one might use the two articles by Gemie mentioned under Texts Cited at the end of this article). Nevertheless, during the July Monarchy schooling for girls was not equal--neither in quality nor in content--to that of boys. There was also great variety among the classes and regions as far as the education of girls was concerned. Bourgeois girls would have a private gouvernante while village girls had a schoolmistress often poorly educated herself. I asked students to read from this perspective "Elisa Mercoeur ou la petite institutrice," as well as the "Préface" to Six histoires de jeunes filles in which Foa stated that she wrote these contes under the premise of "amuser est mon but, instruire en doit être le résultat" (ij). In class, we analyzed the fact that Foa subtitled her story la petite institutrice rather than la petite poète. Students brainstormed for associations with both professions and on the blackboard we composed two lists naming attributes commonly associated with a) institutrice and b) poète. Students discovered that the elementary school teacher appears to be much closer to the ideal of bourgeois female education characterized by female subordination, modesty, and self-sacrifice for others. The teacher deals with children, reproduces existing knowledge and more or less reinforces established governmentally sanctioned cultural values, and more often is working for others than for herself. In the story Elisa Mercoeur as a thirteen-year-old [!] teaches two younger girls the basics of geography, physical education, and some morals, certainly influenced by the Catholic Church. She does so in order to have enough money to support her mother, who does not earn enough as a seamstress. Being a teacher in this particular case does not truly mean that Elisa Mercoeur, who is still a child herself, can be seen as a professional woman. Her instructor position in a private household is similar to that of a maid. Little Elisa is neither transgressing gender nor class boundaries. As a working class girl, she does not aspire to become a bourgeoise, but keeps a subaltern position in a bourgeois household. Nevertheless, her intelligence elevates her above her mother's condition. Her ability to read and write, allows her to make more money than her mother, while at the same time it is planting the seeds of ambition.

The associations students had with "poet" were, of course, quite different from those they had with "teacher." The poet writes out of the need for self-expression; the romantic notion that the poet lives at the margins of society and is critical of it, often rejecting any class affiliation, was mentioned and could be related to Foa's representation of Elisa Mercoeur. Frequently the poet seeks public recognition (fame) by publishing her poems, thereby leaving the private for the public domain, a transgression of gender boundaries. The poet not only possesses knowledge but also inspiration (genius). During the July Monarchy, this was seen as a male quality, the assumption being that only men had the biological disposition to sustain continuous intellectual work. Elisa Mercoeur leaves her native provincial town and goes to Paris. In this context one might want to point out that there was not only division between the classes, but that there was also the division between Paris and the provinces. As a poet, Elisa Mercoeur is represented as transgressing gender and class boundaries.

Je vous ai montré, mesdemoiselles, la jeune fille nourrissant sa mère du produit de ses leçons, et vivant presque inconnue, mais heureuse, dans une sphère étroite et tranquille. Je vais vous la faire voir maintenant sur un théâtre plus élevé, nourrissant toujours sa mère, mais cette fois aux dépens de son cerveau et de sa vie. (219)

Elisa Mercoeur is punished for her transgression. Her premature death is interpreted as a consequence of her poetic aspiration and her pursuit of fame, unnecessary in the eyes of the narrator, who believes that she should have continued to work as a teacher to be able to support her mother.

I reminded students that the ability to write and turning writing into a career was a fairly new phenomenon for women. We discussed the career choices women had at the time, ranging from prostitution to seamstress to writer, and society's response to the fact that not only working class women but also petit bourgeois and bourgeois women worked for financial remuneration (even though this was often covered up in an elaborate discourse). I underscored that Eugénie Foa as femme auteur solicited a pension from the Ministère de l'instruction publique (F17-3152) and that in her letters she never failed to legitimize her work saying that she wrote useful literature, well aware of the fact that there existed a notion of what was appropriate "women's writing" i.e. that it was limited in form and content. Limitations she seemed to accept, as the interpretation of Elisa Mercoeur's death might illustrate. Author and oeuvre, especially women's works were judged according to their moral value to society. It might be useful in this context to mention that the Académie française distributed prizes for the moral value of literary works. Women writers were able to receive such prizes but were certainly not allowed to become members of the Académie française. This shows that the Académie française as a powerful institution controlling the literary market, worked to the advantage of male writers. On the other hand, Foa did fight for the integration of women into the work-force and for equal financial support of male and female writers. She wrote in her letters to the Ministère de l'instruction publique (F17-3152) that she would rather have a position (as Mérimée had for example), but seeing that women did not receive positions to support their careers as writers, she would have to ask for a pension. I pointed out that most of the less-famous women writers emphasized their useful contributions to French society for the above-mentioned reasons. Most of them wrote at one point in their lives children's literature, considered an appropriate literary genre for women writers, because of its close connection to the presumed duties of a woman. Children's literature expanded considerably during those years because of educational politics and the increased literacy rate among both sexes. Writing for children therefore guaranteed a steady source of income and was morally respectable.

Women writers who aspired to be recognized for the literature they produced, rather than for the literature's moral and/or use value, encountered more resistance. I found Bergman-Carton's book The Woman of Ideas in French Art, 1830-1848, very helpful to illustrate the phenomenon. I showed students how women who claimed "genius" were represented, often caricatured in the French press and in French art. One of the women most prominently displayed in this book is George Sand, a fact which allowed for an easy transition to our fourth text Légendes rustiques by George Sand. Students, unfamiliar with Sand had noticed through the representations of the author in the book that she was considered an important French writer even by male contemporaries quite a few of whom granted her genius. Despite Sand's singularity as a woman writer, I first tried to emphasize the similarities between Foa and Sand, to underscore the legal, social and economic obstacles that the majority of the writers and in particular women writers encountered during the July Monarchy: both were women, who lived separated from their husbands and used writing as a major source of income; both were founding members of the Société des gens de lettres, even though Sand, because of her fame, would be the only woman ever elected to the Committee of the Société during the nineteenth century; both women joined the Société because they were aware and ready to fight for legal recognition of intellectual and literary property and appropriate pay for printed or ordered journal articles . I briefly mentioned that other workers' associations existed during the time in which workers fought for similar issues for other types of work. Both women were also members of the Académie des femmes or Institut des femmes as it was later called, showing that both tried to deal with gender issues affecting the literary market and tried to find a way of recognizing women writers and artists appropriately.

I first considered reading Sand's story Lavinia, contrasting it to the tales by Foa. Lavinia permits one to discuss Jewish and Women's emancipation (marriage and divorce laws, women's legal and economic independence) and to illustrate the notion of the romantic hero (Ezdinli). I decided against it, in part because this course focused on genre questions, and I wanted to discuss one further literary genre linked to oral narration, that of legends. I also needed a transitional text which would permit me to introduce the last third of the semester during which we read texts by Daudet and Maupassant dealing with the Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune. Sand's Légendes rustiques permit this transition not only for reasons of chronology, but also for reasons of subject matters. After a brief historical overview on the political events in Paris (Sand's concern with the Parisian working class, the 1848 Revolution), we turned to Sand's notion of the French (Berry) peasant, who, according to Sand, had changed under the impact of progressing industrialization. He had became defensive toward the more sophisticated city person whose ridicule he feared and whose morals and values he perceived as having declined. While the majority of the working class developed toward atheism and socialism, the peasantry remained conservative and Catholic. Again, as in "Elisa Mercoeur ou la petite institutrice" we noticed the division between rural and urban France.

We started out by defining legends and their possible readership which included adults and children. In her introduction to the legends, Sand stated that she wrote down what she had been told as a child in the Berry by her unenlightened environment or the legends she had been told by peasants working in her household. Again, as in the case of Foa, we found here the element of oral narration, which Sand tried to preserve from disappearance through writing. Unlike Foa though, Sand picked up the pen quite affirmatively which some of the students saw as a sign of her more stable and recognized position as an author. We discussed Sand's usage of the supposed "peasant language" to illustrate the lack of education among men and women in the Berry, and the fact that through this means she established her own intellectual superiority as an educated writer. While as a child she believed in the legends, just the same way as the uneducated peasants did--and we noted here that children and peasants were put on the same intellectual plane--she lost this belief as an adult. In the legend La Grand' bête she wrote that because of the education she had received, especially through her preceptor, she was no longer afraid of the legendary monster (39). By pointing out that she had a preceptor , Sand underscored her class affiliation, which had made her privy to an education the peasants could not afford. As a woman writer then she would not only preserve the legends from disappearance, but she would also try to give historical and psychological reasons for their existence. Hence, one could say that while she tried to preserve a piece of French cultural heritage, she simultaneously aimed at educating the masses.

Even though students perceived the Légendes rustiques as difficult, mainly because of the rich vocabulary, it did not make them lose interest in the text. To a large extent, I attribute this to a "cultural and literary pre-understanding" students had acquired through reading Mérimée and Foa. Students had become sensitized to education issues, in particular women's education. They had become knowledgeable in legal and economic questions regarding women's lives in the 1830s and 1840s. And finally, some of them had become interested in the condition of the woman author and went on--self-motivated--to find out more about George Sand on the WWW and through films. This seems to confirm that the new media have become increasingly important for the formation of French cultural images gradually taking the place literature has held before.

Texts Cited

Archives Nationales, Paris. File F17-3152. Indémnités littéraires, Eugénie Foa.

Bergman-Carton, Janis. The Woman of Ideas in French Art, 1830-1848. New Haven: Yale U Press, 1995.

Ezdinli, Leyla. "Altérité juive, altérité romanesque." Romantisme 81 (1993): 29-40.

Foa, Eugénie. "Correspondance" Le Livre de la jeunesse. Vol. 1. Paris: l'auteur, February 1843: 51-52.

---. Rachel. Paris: Dupuy, 1833.

---. Six histoires de jeunes filles. Bruxelles [Brussels]: Société belge de librairie, 1837. (An undated edition of this book was published by Janet in Paris in the 1830s)

Gemie, Sharif. "Marianne as Schoolmistress? - Female Teachers and the Construction of French Nationhood, 1815-1914." France: Nation and Regions, edited by Michael Kelly and Rosemary Böck. Southampton: University of Southampton, 1993: 22-30.

---. "The Schoolmistress's Revenge: "Secular Schoolmistresses, Academic Authority and Village Conflicts in France, 1815-1848." History of Education 20 (1991): 203-17.

Mérimée, Prosper. Mateo Falcone et autres nouvelles. Paris: Larousse, 1992.

Writing Women's History: International Perspectives. Edited by Karen Offen, Ruth R Roach and Jane Randall. Bloomington, Ind: Indiana University Press, 1991.

Kelly, Michael. "French Cultural Studies Today." French Studies Bulletin: A Quarterly Supplement 35 (1990): 17-21.

Petrey, Sandy. "French Studies/Cultural Studies: Reciprocal Invigoration or Mutual Destruction?" The French Review: Journal of the American Association of Teachers of French 68 (1995): 381-92.

Sand, George. Lavinia, le Secrétaire intime, suivi de Metella. etc. Bruxelles [Brussels]: J.P. Meline, 1834.

---. Légendes rustiques. Paris: Verso, 1987.

Shiach, Morag. "'Cultural Studies' and the work of Pierre Bourdieu." French Cultural Studies 4 (1993) 213-223.


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