The Moral Sex: Woman's Nature in the French Enlightenment / Edition 1

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This book deals with a question that currently has a great deal of resonance among historians, feminists, and literary scholars: How was the nature of women redefined and debated during the French Enlightenment? Instead of treating the Enlightenment in the usual manner, as a challenge to orthodox ideas and social conventions, Lieselotte Steinbrügge interprets it as a deviation from a position staked out in the seventeenth century, namely, "the mind has no sex." In breaking with that view, the philosophes shifted the debate to categories like morality and sensitivity and took up economic issues as well. They inadvertently backed women into the corner of domesticity, where middle-class women remained for some time to come.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"...takes us elegantly and intelligently through the now familiar eighteenth-century guerelle des femmes....Her sparkling analyses focus on the question of morality and the place of compassion in a competitive society."—American Historical Review

"This short but dense book requires and deserves careful reading..."—The Historian

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195094930
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 8/28/1995
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 168
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.19 (h) x 0.45 (d)

Meet the Author

Freie Universitat, Berlin
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Table of Contents

Introduction 3
1 Reason Has No Sex 10
The Rationalist Tradition of the Querelle des Femmes: (Poulain de la Barre) 11
Eighteenth-Century Discussions of the Ideal of the Learned Woman: (Florent de Puisieux, Dom Philippe-Joseph Caffiaux, Mademoiselle Archambault) 13
Emotionalizing the Female Mind: (Madame de Lambert) 18
2 Dividing the Human Race: The Anthropological Definition of Woman in the Encyclopedie 21
The Human Being as Natural Being 21
The Image of the Useful Human Being: Honnetete Turns Bourgeois 24
Woman as Natural Being in the Physiocrats' Ordre Naturel 25
The Other Side of the Natural Order 28
The Moral Sex 30
3 The Sensualist Turning Point: (Antoine-Leonard Thomas and Pierre Roussel) 35
4 The Sexualization of Female Existence 41
Medical Discourse 41
Literary Discourse: (Denis Diderot) 44
5 The Historical and Moral-Philosophical Dimensions of the Feminine: (Jean-Jacques Rousseau) 54
Control Over the Passions as Educational Objective in Emile 56
Egoism as the Competitive Society's Ruling Passion in the Discours sur l'origine et les fondements de l'inegalite parmi les hommes 60
The History of Female Reason: The Golden Age in One's Own Home 63
The Return of the Golden Age in La Nouvelle Heloise 70
The Function of the Feminine in the Utopia of Clarens 77
6 The Female Reduced to Natural Instinct: (Choderlos de Laclos) 83
7 Female Sensibility 90
Rousseau for Everywoman: The Dual Nature of the Passions 90
The Limited Scope of Female Sensibility 97
Raising Girls to Be Society's Moral Conscience: Women's Pedagogical Writings: (Madame de Miremont, Madame Espinassy, Madame d'Epinay) 99
Conclusion 105
Notes 109
Bibliography 145
Index 155
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