Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Jill Heydt-Stevenson

Second Advisor

Christopher Braider

Third Advisor

Maxime Goergen

Fourth Advisor

Jeffrey Cox

Fifth Advisor

Masano Yamashita

Abstract

The Revolutionary Heroine--the female protagonist in novels of the French Revolution written by women between 1801 and 1871--is the unique literary manifestation of women authors' head-on challenge to the promises of equality that the Revolution appeared to offer their sex, but which instead reduced it to "the most absurd mediocrity" (De Staël). By confronting a century's worth of political, social, and sexual history, the Revolutionary Heroine recasts the drama of 1789: as an embodiment of all that is politically other, she presents at once a rewrite, a correction, an alternative, and a challenge to male literary heroes who are complicit with failed revolutionary policies, to literary heroines who have yet to realize the scope of the debate at which they are the heart, and to the Revolution itself. Deconstructing doctrines of propriety, redefining women's nature, politicizing her domestic contributions, calling for her citizenship, denouncing revolutionary violence, and revalorizing the Enlightenment cosmopolitanism that perished in antagonistic Franco-British relations during the Terror, the Revolutionary Heroine neutralizes the period's greatest sources of public and private anxiety with the philosophical justification that the crisis itself was unable to institutionalize.