French Women's Writing, 1848-1994 (Women in Context (London, by Diana Holmes

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By Diana Holmes

A variety of French girls writers are surveyed, together with Sand, Colette, Beauvoir and Duras one of the "canonized", and plenty of marginalized or forgotten and modern names now not but well known outdoors France. those writers are obvious in the political, fiscal and cultural context of women's lives and the way those have replaced throughout a century-and-a-half. Underpinning the total account is the connection among gender and language, among politics sexual and textual.

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To gain freedom through masquerading as a man none the less means to acknowledge the reality of male power, and from the outset Sand's writing career was based on a problematic masking of her own identity as a woman. Sand was unusually fitted to write as a man, for the circumstances of her birth and education had not been those of a conventional upper- or middle-class woman. First, there was her split class identity, for she was born — in her own words - 'astride two classes', child of a marriage between an aristocratic young officer in Napoleon's army and his working-class Parisian mistress.

29 It is not surprising that the huge majority of published writers were men, since women lacked the prerequisites of education, social freedom and even the right to dispose of their own income. The doctrine of separate spheres relegated women to the private and domestic world, reserving the public space almost exclusively for male voices. As one literary movement succeeded another, the public persona of the poet/writer continued to be defined in masculine terms. From the heroic rebel of the Romantics, inspired by his female Muse, to the alienated and misogynist dandy of the Decadents; from the Realist scribe of society, as Balzac described himself, to the Naturalist scourge of social evils - both of them dependent on a social mobility denied to women - the identity of the writer assumed a confident place in society which legitimated a critical stance.

Presented as a dialogue between the author and a persuasive friend who wants to hear the story, the preface speaks of the pain and betrayal of recent events, but opts for the telling of pastoral tales as an escape from suffering: And we shall dedicate these stories to our friends who are prisoners; since we are forbidden to speak to them of politics, we can only tell them stories to entertain them and help them to sleep. (Fadette, p. 12)18 The tension between literature as escapism and literature as political activity has apparently disappeared by the later Bagpipers, the preface of which simply dedicates the book to a friend who loves the region in which the story is set.

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