Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
LACS: French and German Studies
Contemporary French feminist literary critics have debated whether the category of woman is an empowering or limiting paradigm through which to analyze women writers. Hélène Cixous coined the term "feminine writing [écriture féminine]" in order to link femininity to a radical particularity, whereas Monique Wittig has asserted that this concept confines women writers to their minority identity rather than allowing them to be read universally. Such discussions serve as a useful lens through which to analyze women writers who grappled with their gendered position far before the advent of 20th-century feminism.
Despite the abundance of woman romantic poets in the 19th century, Marceline Desbordes-Valmore and Annette von Droste-Hülshoff are the only ones to be welcomed into the French and German literary canons, respectively. Far from universalizing women’s experiences, their canonization paradoxically marginalizes them: male poets characterize Desbordes-Valmore’s oeuvre as "feminine poetry" in such a way that sidelines her contemporaries, and Droste-Hülshoff’s writing never mentions women. However, their poems demonstrate an awareness of these issues, and their complex self-conceptions stand in contrast to the simplistic identity of “woman writer” that others assign to them. Desbordes-Valmore's « À celles qui pleurent » (1843) and « Une lettre de femme » (1860) address an emerging community of women writers, and Droste-Hülshoff's « Das Spiegelbild » (1844) expresses an androgynous individuality. Both resist their classification as “women writers” by asserting their individuality and universality in the male-dominated literary canon, thus contributing to a proto-feminist literary discourse.
MacKilligan, Mimi, "L’Universalité de la voix féminine : interprétations genrées de la poésie romantique française et allemande". Senior Theses, Trinity College, Hartford, CT 2021.
Trinity College Digital Repository, https://digitalrepository.trincoll.edu/theses/910