The Rise of the Public in Enlightenment Europe

By James Van Horn Melton | Go to book overview
Save to active project

6
Women in public: enlightenment salons

The salon occupied a distinctive place in Enlightenment culture. In contrast to other institutions of the Enlightenment public sphere, it revolved around a woman. True, the salons of Paris, London, Vienna, or Berlin owed much of their renown to the men of letters who frequented them, and the desire to participate in a male-dominated world of letters was precisely what led many women to host a salon in the first place. But no matter howluminous the men in her salon, the hostess was its social and communicative center. In this respect the salon was exceptional in according women such a degree of influence and leadership.

In other ways, however, the salon embodied essential features of the Enlightenment public sphere. First, the development of the salon was marked by a growing autonomy from the courtly world that had given birth to it. Although the salon had developed out of the Renaissance court as a place where men and women gathered to enjoy the pleasures of music, poetry, and polite conversation, in the eighteenth century it evolved into an institution independent from the court. Although court and salon circles might overlap, they became culturally and spatially distinct from each other. Second, the salon, like other institutions of the Enlightenment public sphere, enjoyed a close relationship to eighteenth-century print culture. Despite the centrality of conversation in the salon, its culture was not exclusively oral. Dominated by writers, it was a place where the written word was generated and circulated. Finally, the salon provided the occasion for individuals from different social and professional backgrounds to mingle on relatively equal terms. By eighteenth-century standards salon etiquette was fairly informal. Although salons usually met on appointed days (generally once or twice a week), no special invitations were issued. Conversation inside the salon reflected a reciprocal, egalitarian model of communicative exchange that assumed a willingness to suspend whatever criteria of social distinction may have existed outside it. This suspension of existing hierarchies was already evident in the more aristocratic salons of seventeenth-century Paris, which served to integrate an affluent, upwardly mobile bourgeoisie into the ranks of the 197

-197-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Rise of the Public in Enlightenment Europe
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 284

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?