- Nadine Berenguier, University of New Hampshire, USA
During the eighteenth-century, at a time when secular and religious authors in France were questioning women’s efforts to read, a new literary genre emerged: conduct books written specifically for girls and unmarried young women. In this carefully researched and thoughtfully argued book, Professor Nadine Bérenguier shares an in-depth analysis of this development, relating the objectives and ideals of these books to the contemporaneous Enlightenment concerns about improving education in order to reform society. Works by Anne-Thérèse de Lambert, Madeleine de Puisieux, Jeanne Marie Leprince de Beaumont, Louise d'Epinay, Barthélémy Graillard de Graville, Chevalier de Cerfvol, abbé Joseph Reyre, Pierre-Louis Roederer, and Marie-Antoinette Lenoir take up a wide variety of topics and vary dramatically in tone. But they all share similar objectives: acquainting their young female readers with the moral and social rules of the world and ensuring their success at the next stage of their lives. While the authors regarded their texts as furthering the common good, they were also aware that they were likely to be controversial among those responsible for girls' education. Bérenguier's sensitive readings highlight these tensions, as she offers readers a rare view of how conduct books were conceived, consumed, re-edited, memorialized, and sometimes forgotten. In the broadest sense, her study contributes to our understanding of how print culture in eighteenth-century France gave shape to a specific social subset of new readers: modern girls.
Contents: Introduction; Part I Textual Strategies: Between oral and print cultures; Authorial anxieties. Part II Topoi: Perceptions of motherhood; Maneuvering new social spaces; Marriage and its disillusions. Part III Reception: The cultural landscape of the18th-century press; Anne-Thérèse de Lambert's Avis d'une mère à sa fille; Madeleine de Puisieux’s Conseils à une amie; Jeanne Marie Leprince de Beaumont’s Magasin des adolescentes and Instructions pour les jeunes dames; Louise d'Epinay's Conversations d'Emilie; Graillard, Cerfvol and Reyre; Conduct books in early literary history; Editorial fortunes in the 19th century; Bibliography; Index.
About the Author: Nadine Berenguier has a Ph. D. from Stanford University and is Associate Professor of French at the University of New Hampshire, USA. She is the author of L'Infortune des alliances: contrat, mariage et fiction au dix-huitième siècle.
Reviews: 'Nadine Bérenguier analyzes diachronically a group of lesser-known and under-appreciated conduct books to paint a picture of the idealized girl and young mother, imagined by Enlightenment authors and an ever-expanding readership. Her book adds an important chapter to the history of women's and gender studies in Europe and North America that will also appeal to those interested in the history of the book and its reception.'
Lesley Walker, Indiana University South Bend, USA
'… useful, excellent book… Recommended.' Choice
'… Bérenguier’s insights on the paradoxes of a woman’s existence in both the public and private realms often made me think of nothing less than a good Jane Austen novel and many of the issues raised here probe, with fresh insight and in a different domain, issues previously addressed in Mary Poovey’s now classic work. This study could be fruitfully paired with literary works in courses on the history of manners, the history of girlhood, the history of the press, the history of the family, or educational theory and practice, to name just a few specific topics. In short, this is a book with lots to offer to specialists as well as students. It is based on impressive research, which is presented in a lively and accessible manner.' H-France
'Berenguier has written an informative and readable book which makes a useful contribution to our growing knowledge of the ‘woman question’ in the eighteenth century… she makes fruitful and imaginative use of Gerard Genette’s Paratexts (original French edition 1987) to explore the way her authors use the preface to mask their identity, create fictitious personas and generally curry favour with parents.' Journal of Childhood in the Past
'Meticulously researched, grounded in critical theory, and elegantly written, Conduct Books for Girls in Enlightenment France is a useful addition to libraries that serve graduate students or scholars of the history of education, particularly the education of females.' New Perspectives on the Eighteenth Century
'Berenguier’s careful and detailed examination of prefatory material and of the reviews the works received in the press reveals some of the anxieties surrounding the use of print as a means of reaching a young female audience.' French Studies
'Conduct books for girls demonstrates Bérenguier’s willingness to dwell in the complexities of her important subject. Her careful readings and judicious assessments make this a deeply rewarding read that greatly enhances our understanding of gender and Enlightenment.' Enlightenment and Dissent
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