The Feminist Encyclopedia of French Literature

By Eva Martin Sartori; Colette H. Winn et al. | Go to book overview

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Kéralio-Robert, Louise Félicité Guynement de ( 1758-1822). Historian, editor, journalist, pamphleteer, novelist, translator, pedagogue, publisher, and printer, Kéralio-Robert fashioned a prodigious literary career that repeatedly challenged and expanded both the gender and genre boundaries that typically circumscribed the activities of "women of letters" during the revolutionary era. Born in 1758 into an old noble Breton family, she was recognized as a linguistic virtuoso, having mastered Ancient Greek, Latin, Italian, and English. At age eighteen Kéralio embarked upon her two most important works: a twelve-volume Collection of great French women writers ( 1786-1788), and a five-volume Histoire d'Elisabeth, reine d'Angleterre ( 1786- 1788). The Collection and the Histoire elaborated what remain to this day the two main approaches to feminist historiography--one separatist, one integrationist. The Collection offers a series of exemplary portraits of exceptional literary women as models to women of her own age. The history of Elizabeth, by contrast, departs radically from the conventions of femme forte histories and is instead a critical constitutional history of Elizabeth's reign in the Whig tradition, but with a feminist twist: it includes a searing critique of the paradoxical nature of a female sovereign in a political culture that coded public virtue as inherently masculine. This work earned Kéralio immediate renown as the "first professional woman historian," and in 1787 she was the third woman ever to be elected to the Academy of Arras.

In the 1780s Kéralio secretly launched a publishing* house in Paris. In 1789 she threw herself into radical revolutionary politics, opening a printing shop and launching a career as journalist and pamphleteer. Her most important work during this period was an anonymously published indictment of Marie-Antoinette* entitled Les Crimes des reines de la France ( 1791). In 1790 she married a young Jacobin and future Jacobin deputy, François Robert. In 1808 she returned to publishing with several novels* and translations*. Her late novels are explicitly feminist, blending historical and fictional narrative forms, ceaselessly calling into

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