L'éducation des filles chez les romancières au siècle des Lumières

Abstract : The ardent reflections of the Age of Enlightenment writers leads them to an awareness of the decline in the moral standards of their contemporary society and thence to an inquiring look at the educational system. They are particularly concerned with the education of girls, the future mothers who would be bringing up and educating the men of the new generation. On the fringe of the debate, women authors are also grappling with a problem they are especially concerned about and they realize that the novel is a tremendously effective means of expressing their criticisms, theories and ideals dashed hopes, unfulfilled dreams and grievances towards men and society whose treatment of women is so unfair. Their reflections on education, on the role and place of women in society, are vigorously supported by such philosophers and theorists as Saint François de Sales, Fénelon, Mme de Maintenon, Mme de Lambert and, later on, by Rousseau and other philosophers who find food for thought during the enriching discussions that take place in the salons the Age of Enlightenment women writers so competently hold. The heroines of their tales, short stories and novels are nurtured on the principles of the classical ideal but, little by little, to these embodiments of Christian virtues tinged with stoicism, they introduce weakness that make them more human. Throughout the century and beyond many will be renowned for their herosim and determination : they are active and energetic, fight successfully against adversity and courageously take their lives in hand. Towards the end of the century, women authors are pondering over the ethics of duty and demand a more humane moral doctrine in society. Marriage is a choice theme that enables them to expose their vision of love and serves as a framework for their criticisms of a society in which young girls are considered as objects and women as second-rate citizens without rights or belongings in adversity. However, the novelists' feminism remains ambiguous and timid. The authors are subjected to the rules of etiquette and public opinion that is imbued with Christian morality and will later be disappointed by the Revolution and its promises to their sex ; they dream of more social equality, calm relationships between man and wife and of respect for themselves. Their feminism, their defence against male misconduct, rely on feminine solidarity which is the distinctive hallmark of the fictional literature of the Age of Enlightenment.
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http://docnum.univ-lorraine.fr/prive/NANCY2/doc273/2007NAN21009.pdf
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Stéphanie Miech. L'éducation des filles chez les romancières au siècle des Lumières. Littératures. Université Nancy 2, 2007. Français. ⟨NNT : 2007NAN21009⟩. ⟨tel-01777333⟩

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