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25 March 2014
Grégoire Mahuzier

French and Francophone Studies Hosts Lecture on “Media Feminism in the Belle Epoque”

On Monday, Feb. 24, Rachel Mesch, associate professor of French at Yeshiva University, will talk about “Media Feminism in the Belle Epoque: French Women’s Magazines and the Invention of the Celebrity Woman Writer.”

This talk (in English) explores the complex ways in which the Belle Epoque women’s magazines Femina and La vie heureuse exploited new photographic technologies to construct the French woman writer as a celebrity who could balance professional success with bourgeois ideals. This innovative form of media feminism offered French readers dazzling new kinds of female role models, while catapulting French women writers to unheard of levels of visibility and success in the early 1900s. Situating these two magazines in feminist, literary, and media history as well as contemporary debates, Mesch considers the triumphs and limitations of their unique form of feminism, and what we can learn from them today.

The event, hosted by the French and Francophone Department and the Comparative Literature program, will take place at Carpenter Library, room B21, at 5 p.m.

Mesch’s talk fits well with the research of several members of Bryn Mawr’s own French and Francophone Studies faculty, says Professor Grace Armstrong, the department chair.

“Both Brigitte Mahuzier, who specializes in modern literature, history, and feminist and gender theory, and I teach a variety of courses that foreground women’s studies/feminist issues,” says Armstrong.

Among the courses offered:

The History of French Women traces the participation of women in the construction of French history from the Revolution of 1789 to the present.

Saints, Hysterics and Criminals, an upper-level course which focuses on the way women, throughout the nineteenth century in France, were used in the unfolding debate between science and religion: considered as pariahs, accused of mysticism and hysteria, and excluded from both lay and scientific discourses.

Approches critiques et théoriques, a theory course which originated in the French department, and devotes large sections of the syllabus to modern French feminism, from Beauvoir to Wittig, and through the readings of post-Freudian feminists such as Cixous and Irigaray.
Printemps de la parole féminine concentrates on the various strategies women writers use either to justify their entry into fruitful competition/collaboration with the corpus of male writers, or to set themselves outside of this corpus so as to profit from greater auctorial/editorial freedom.

Le Chevalier, la Dame, et le prêtre, a panoramic study of the French Middle Ages from 1050-1500, that foregrounds the importance of the audience, highly peopled by women, as well as a female readership in the later centuries of the Middle Ages, for their contributions to the development of the narrative (especially, romance) genre.

The department also looks to its greenhouse course 101-102 as a central opportunity to acquaint entering students, who have largely been exposed to the traditional male canon, with an exciting entry into the literature of women artists from both Metropolitan France and the ex-colonies (Claire de Duras, Anne Hébert, Andrée Chedid, Mariama Bâ, and Marguerite Duras).

Bryn Mawr’s French and Francophone Studies department is recognized as one of the top undergraduate French programs in the country. Many of its majors apply for entry-level positions in international affairs and international relations. Others opt to prepare for careers in the international arena by applying to graduate programs in international studies or public health and a number of graduates go on to law and medical school. For more information, visit the department website.

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