Producing Feminine Virtue: Strategies of Terror in Writings by Madame de Genlis

Lesley H. Walker, Indiana University South Bend
Vol. 23, No. 2 (Fall 2004), 213-236

Though two centuries distant from current discourses of terror, this article on one woman writer in France before and after the French Revolution reminds us of the historic sources of the gothic. This essay recovers the often neglected work of de Genlis and its role in transforming literary mothers from powerful mother heroines, who secured their daughters’ happiness through rigorous instruction, into passive mothers who were themselves persecuted victims of providential inscrutability. The essay looks particularly closely at de Genlis’s play “La Mere Rivale,” her first novel Adele et Theodore ou Lettres sur l’education, and her post-Revolutionary novel Les Meres Rivales ou la Calomnie, and surveys the tremendous scope of de Genlis’s achievements in her own day.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]