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The Other Enlightenment


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The Other Enlightenment is a masterpiece of analytic clarity and historical acumen. Focusing on women's writing rather than on discourses about women, Carla Hesse shows that the French Revolution provided women with unprecedented access to print culture. Never again would the number of published women writers sink to pre-revolutionary levels. Anyone interested in women's access to bourgeois modernity will have to read this pathbreaking book. -- Toril Moi, author of "What is a Woman?" Carla Hesse has given us an astonishing new look at women's struggle for independent expression and moral autonomy during the French Revolution and afterward. Denied the political and civil rights of men, literary women plunged into the expanded world of publication, answering the men's philosophical treatises with provocative novels about women's choices and chances. Lively and learned, The Other Enlightenment links women from Madame de Stael to Simone de Beauvoir in an alternate and daring path to the modern. -- Natalie Zemon Davis, author of "The Return of Martin Guerre" Hesse takes the history of women and gender into exciting new territory. She gives women of the past a chance to talk back, to tell their stories, and to reveal how an alternative history can be discovered through their writings and even through the very act of writing. Hesse's groundbreaking evidence about women writers and their publications is bound to stimulate new work for years to come. Combining print history with literary and philosophical analysis, she argues a provocative and important thesis: that the growing market economy in print offered women new opportunities for self expression through fiction and for making public claims to moral autonomy. Women thus managed to define their own worlds, even as their public and private lives were legally subjugated to those of their fathers and husbands. -- Lynn Hunt, University of California, Los Angeles Hesse combines an insightful reading of key figures in the history of French women's letters with an astute understanding of the role of print culture in the making of modern society. She has produced a highly readable, extremely persuasive book. Against those who see the rise of modern society as erecting barriers to women's full equality and independence, Hesse finds cause for greater optimism. -- Joan B. Landes, Pennsylvania State University This book is a long-awaited tour-de-force by a major historian. It is sure to become an instant and enduring classic in French history and literary studies, a provocative and compelling argument to be reckoned with by anyone concerned about the possibilities for female subjectivity and women's full participation in modern Western culture and public life. -- Margaret Waller, Pomona College

About the Author

Carla Hesse is Professor of European History at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of "Publishing and Cultural Politics in Revolutionary Paris" and the coeditor of several books, including "Culture and Identity in Early Modern Europe". She is a member of the editorial board of the journal "Representations".


"[Hesse identifies] a (relatively precise) historical moment as being of seminal importance in one possible definition of modernity. When that has been grasped, the full ingenuity of her arguments and the considerable quality of her writing can emerge."--Richard Parish, Times Higher Education Supplement "Hesse provides a unique and well-documented look at women's history..."--Library Journal "Carla Hesse ... deploys Kant's ambivalent definition of freedom as the ground for a more hopeful and explicitly liberal feminist reconstruction of female agency... This is a concise book on a vast topic, one that is sure to inspire further research and discussion."--Joan B. Landes, American Historical Review "Hesse's study is persuasive not only because of its historical rigor, logical presentation and clarity of style, but also because of its explicit values... [Her] liberal values offer a particularly good point of departure for her historical study of women's transition to modernity... Hesse provides a thorough, well-documented and convincing explanation of women's historical impediments and achievements in their roles as modern citizens."--Claudia Moscovici, Nineteenth Century French Studies "Short, suggestive, and brilliant... A powerfully crafted historical vision presented ... in lucid and engaging prose... In her deft combination of quantitative research and critical readings, Hesse provides a model of how to pursue the social history of ideas."--David A. Bell, New Republic "This stimulating study of French women and publishing between 1789 and 1800 contributes significantly to both the cultural history of the French Revolution and current debate about the Revolution's impact on women... Hesse argues convincingly that after 1789 French women found new opportunities to define themselves in print as modern individuals and that post-revolutionary successors benefited from the new publishing realities."--Linda L. Clark, Journal of Social History "Extremely challenging and at the same time immensely enjoyable... [R]eaders will definitely benefit from the chapters, none of which is without interest."--Marie Lathers, French Review

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