Crafting Feminine Virtue in Enlightenment France
Bucknell Studies in Eighteenth Century Literature and Culture
A Mother's Love: Crafting Feminine Virtue in Enlightenment France chronicles the emergence of an idealized mother figure whose reforming zeal sought to make French society more just. Lesley H. Walker contends that this attempt during the eighteenth century to "rewrite" social relations in terms of greater social equality represents an important but overlooked strand of Enlightenment thought. During this period, popular domestic novels, the ever-raging debates about women's social roles, and highly sought-after genre paintings produced a remarkable image of motherhood. Through a focus on feminine virtue, Walker studies female writers and artists to argue that these women theorize the domestic sphere as a site of significant social and ethical productivity.
"Lesley Walker's ably executed interdisciplinary study is a welcome contribution to the field of maternal discourse: it is well worth the reading."--Antoinette Sol, University of Texas at Arlington (New Perspectives on the Eighteenth Century, 6.1, Spring 2009)
"This book is a thoroughly researched, well-written, significant contribution to scholarship on the French eighteenth century. It is an important text for anyone interested in French literary and visual studies, women authors and artists, the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, or Enlightenment culture...[The book] features virtuosic shifting among eras, genres, and themes, all neatly and elegantly tied back to the book's central argument. Against a solid and nuanced theoretical background, Walker engages skillfully with a broad range of scholarship." -- Heidi Bostic, Baylor University (The French Review 83.2, 2009)
"This richly documented work draws on abundant research in eighteenth-century literature, art, and in contemporary feminist criticism. Walker makes a convincing case..that women drew inspiration and encouragement from Rousseau and other writers of the period for making the family a stronger, more rewarding aspect of human existence and further, for expanding mutual support within the family to include the larger community." -- Carol Blum (Stony Brook University) Eighteenth-Century Life 34.3 (2010)