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Mónica Bolufer (València), Annette Keilhauer (Erlangen), Hendrik Schlieper (Paderborn)

Towards a gendered history of European literary culture: a (not so) wild wish1

For several decades, considerable attention has been paid to women's writing in European literatures. This has led to a both quantitatively and qualitatively sound basis for research on the production, reception, connections and canonizing processes of women writers. Yet the growing complexity of gender studies and their constant interaction with social and cultural history stress the need to go beyond the female focus. A larger framework for a gendered literary history has to be developed and extended to an interdisciplinary and transcultural approach. This article delimits and defines some key concepts for such a gendered literary history with regard to romance literatures. Pointing out the various gendered dimensions of literary culture that can for instance be detected in discussions on literary genre or in poetological debates throughout the centuries, it aims to encourage a discussion on a future European literary historiography.

From the history of women writers to a gendered literary history

For several decades, research in the fields of literary criticism and cultural and gender history has mobilized a massive collective effort to shed light on female literary production in Europe, part of which had been silenced and forgotten since the nineteenth century. Documenting this production, its national and international reception and the various and multiple connections between women writers of different languages, cultural spheres and historical periods has resulted in a new quantitative and qualitative basis for future research. Initially inspired by Anglo-American research from the early women's studies up to recent gender projects, a variety of collective initiatives have developed within the last 20 years in Europe and produced an important number of key publications and digitally accessible information. A striking example at a genuinely European level is the COST Action Women Writers in History (2008–2013) that continued and expanded the elaboration of a database on women writers from all European countries, from the Middle Ages up to 1900. It includes records on thousands of women writers and their works as well as a huge amount of reception data to be consulted online.2 Other initiatives, such as the documentations of SIEFAR and BIESES, focus on national literatures,3 or, for instance, Gemela, The history of Nordic women's literature, The Orlando project or The Sophie project, concentrate on a linguistically or culturally defined area.4

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The collective effort of inventory and compilation gives us a good basis from which we can proceed to a broader research framework, moving towards a gendered history of European literatures. In this frame we need to go beyond the exclusive focus on female production. Female writing has to be re-contextualized in the literary field and in its aesthetic, social, cultural and political discourses. In the Anglo-American research tradition such an opening has been achieved within the last 20 years by moving from women's literary history to a gendered history of literary culture which has developed quite naturally into an integration of female writing into recent literary histories.5 This is still clearly not the case for the Romance literatures, which constitute a core area of a European idea of literary culture.

The following suggestions attempt to sketch the new frame we propose in order to develop further collaborative research at an international level. The primary long-term objective should be to integrate results of gender studies into a general literary history – an objective that has been achieved neither for European literatures in general nor for Romance literatures in particular. Here, new approaches to literary history can be connected to those practiced in historical studies, particularly in cultural and social history. Nowadays the effort to make visible women's specific contributions to the production and circulation of knowledge and art in these fields through writing, reading, artistic creation, patronage, networking and participation in learned sociability tends to become integrated into a more ambitious aim, that of understanding historical processes as gendered phenomena.6

The evidence will inevitably lead to a European vision of literary history and call in question traditional national settings. Research already developed and presently continuing about women's writing and reading has shown multiple examples of crossing and questioning borders, much as migrant literatures do (Fidecaro/Partzsch/Van Dijk/Cossy 2009; Leduc 2012: 33–44).

A gendered literary history, understood in the wide sense of a "history of literary culture", should not limit its focus to female production, but rather integrate the various dimensions of gender-related research into literary and cultural studies that have been undertaken in the last twenty years. As regards case studies, many of us have already established this connection as a matter of course. In order to elicit a collective effort of reflection, we feel it might be helpful to present some key concepts in formulating programmatic perspectives that go beyond specific cases.

What do we mean by "gendered literary history"? We do not just mean adding the contributions by women to the general literary field, which have previously been neglected. The change would have to be fundamental. It seems important to question the parameters of historical, ideological and aesthetic classification and evaluation in literary history that up to now have dominated the "master narratives" of literary histories in Europe. The concept of gendered literary history is rooted in our profound conviction that female and male literary activities have never evolved and developed independently of each other. Even though the basic historical conditions of writing differ between the sexes, their literary productions participate in the same cultural, political, aesthetic and institutional discourses, which are largely characterized by gender difference. A gendered history which takes into account this interrelation between male and female writing would profoundly affect and modify the patterns of literary historiography. When properly developed, it will stimulate reflection on the complex origins of past canonizing processes that continue to influence present-day teaching and research as well as encourage a discussion on possible objectives and functions of a future historiography of literary cultures (see Keilhauer/Steinbrügge 2013 for further discussion).

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The reflections that follow try to define some key dimensions of a gendered history of European literatures along these lines, without claiming to be exhaustive. They rather aim to encourage a general discussion on future objectives by offering examples taken mainly from French and Spanish literature of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Although contextualized in specific time and place, these examples are meant to serve as illustrations of theoretical and methodological concerns which might be common to literary and cultural historians working on a variety of periods, territories and genres.

Recontextualizing women's writing in the general literary field

Evaluation of female production should remain an important aim, but it should be more directly linked to general literary production and reception not only at a quantitative but also at a qualitative level (Steinbrügge 1995).

The networking and research effort already developed in many different countries, and most recently the collaborative COST Action carried out within a European framework, has revealed an impressive quantitative input of women writers in Europe's literary history, most of whom are long forgotten, and whose impact is shown by sometimes massive reception data at national and international levels.7 This information is an essential precondition for detailed research on particular cases and areas. As soon, however, as one tries to evaluate the data, the lack of connection with the general production of a period is acutely felt. Often there are no corresponding data for the general literary field of a period; where they exist, it is probable that they do not give a true account of women's participation in the literary field.

Indeed, if we look more closely, quantitative information is sometimes misleading; it only tells us part of the story and can often be interpreted in various ways. Reception measured by analyzing the contents of private libraries is a case in point. The inventories of libraries which have come down to us and can be used as sources – most of them, but not all, inventories of men's libraries – tend to include only a very small number of works written by women. Considered from a quantitative point of view, they might seem to be irrelevant. This is the case, for example, for eighteenth-century Spanish private library inventories. Quantification of their contents shows that the presence of women writers is usually below 1%.8 However, we should try to go beyond mere figures. To a certain extent, women authors do appear on the bookshelves of many of those libraries. Often these are women who were successful in their own time but are entirely forgotten today. Analysis not limited to quantification might deduce from the inventories that a certain number of women authors were acknowledged as relevant, even essential reading for those readers of both sexes who wanted to be familiar with the novelties and trends of literary and intellectual production. It becomes evident that the reading of French authors, including key women writers such as Stéphanie Ducrest, comtesse de Genlis, or Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont in the original language, was crucial. It preceded and stimulated translation, and was never replaced by it. As the inventories show, the reading of works in their original language must have continued long after Spanish versions were published (Bolufer/Gomis 2012). At the same time, prefaces to works authored or translated by Spanish eighteenth-century women, even if often addressed, more or less rhetorically, to "my sex", show that women writers rarely contented themselves with a female-only readership, but sought, both for practical and symbolical reasons, to appear before a general, mixed audience (Cohen 1999; Jagoe 1993).9

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Female writing as part of a dialogue between the sexes

For the European context we would like to return to the general thesis that Ina Schabert proposes in her history of English literature (Schabert 1997, 1995: particularly 191). Schabert calls for a literary history that focuses on the relations between men and women and their dynamic intertwining instead of a separate evaluation of the production of either sex, as is still the case in most literary histories, if the female production is mentioned at all. Male and female writers react to each other within a synchronic as well as a diachronic dynamics. The concept of dialogue allows the questioning of the commonplace that female writing has a "marginal" status and brings some key texts back into the centre of discussion.

Recent studies on the seventeenth century French fairy tale show for instance that Charles Perrault's collection of the Contes de ma mere l'Oye (1697), known worldwide and canonized, has to be re-contextualized in a complex process of intertextual play with female authors of the same period, particularly his niece Mademoiselle l'Héritier and Madame d'Aulnoy (Heidmann 2011: 45–96; Heidmann/Adam 2010: particularly 45–112). The variations appearing in a comparison of their narrative plots show that the intertextual references were not only used for experiments in genre but also taken as an opportunity for the discussion of gender issues, for example the question of courtly behaviour in mixed society and the particular difficulties women encountered in the gallant salon culture of the time (Seifert 1996).

Another example in French literature is the link between Montesquieu's Lettres persanes (1728) and Françoise de Graffigny's Lettres d'une péruvienne (1747). Graffigny does not merely imitate Montesquieu but creates the first intercultural figure that responds in a critical way to the cultural setting developed by Montesquieu. Zilia, the heroine of Graffigny's bestselling epistolary novel, is not, unlike Usbek and Rica (the protagonists of Montesquieu's Lettres), an almost French character who speaks and acts like the philosophes. The author uses her as a key figure to demonstrate a process of gradual adaptation and integration into a foreign culture. Graffigny's final vision goes much further than Montesquieu's in intercultural dialogue, imagining a successful reconciliation of two cultures exemplified by the French-Peruvian heroine Zilia (Mallinson 2004).

The dialogical nature of women's writing has already been taken into consideration in some cases, where specific examples of male reception of women's writing have been detected and explored. Multiple intergender connections between texts are more difficult to comprehend; they require extensive analyses within a wider theoretical and methodological framework. Striking examples of the gendered nature of intertextual dialogue can be found in the context of nineteenth-century realism and naturalism. In literary historiography, both movements, linked to the formation of the novel as the century's leading genre, are traditionally interpreted as ingenious achievements of a small number of individual authors such as the French Balzac and Zola or the Spanish Pérez Galdós. However, realism and naturalism are of a highly dialogical gendered nature. As Margaret Cohen and Catherine Jagoe have shown, the realist and naturalist novel, often codified as an explicitly male undertaking, should rather be considered as the reaction of male authors to the noticeable presence of women writers in the contemporary literary field.10 The fact that these gender relations have been ignored and are therefore absent from literary histories is due to a strategy by male authors which Cohen, with a view to French realism, has termed a "hostile takeover": "[...] Balzac and Stendhal made bids for their market shares in a hostile takeover of the dominant practice of the novel when both started writing: sentimental works by women writers" (Cohen 1999: 6). Cohen's idea of a hostile takeover is highly relevant for literary historiography and genealogies of literary texts and movements. In their poetics and writing practices, realist and naturalist authors try to silence their debt to female literary traditions, hide the dialogical nature of their texts and reject any genealogical relation to their female counterparts. An important aspect of a gendered literary history consists therefore in revealing such a rejection of genealogy by male authors and reintegrating canonical texts in their constitutive – both dialogical and gendered – environment.

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Literary texts and social gender constructions

The important role of gender construction in literary texts and the crucial role of literature in the performative construction of gender should be a part of this revised history. Gender constructions take place within a historical dynamics which constantly interacts with the representation and self-representation of writers. Female as well as male writers are conscious of the potential of literature to influence social gender construction. More or less openly, they use fictional characters to rewrite gender relations. This awareness evolved during the nineteenth century into a direct and programmatic approach. New gender models were propagated in feminist literary texts and traditional gender constructions were questioned in feminist literary critique. The development can only be understood when seen as a reaction, an answer to concurrent traditionalist gender constructions. A case in point is the feminist critique of the boulevard theatre-pieces in mid-nineteenth-century France. In these, adultery is exclusively attributed to female figures, who are often rudely punished for their misconduct. In a feminist reaction of 1873 to a successful piece by Dumas fils, the female critic ironically proposes that guns should be distributed among the spectators in order to execute the adulterous woman at the end of the play.11

In the late nineteenth century, feminist and mostly female authors in several European countries developed the concept of the new woman as a strong, independent and androgynous figure. This is clearly a reaction to the dominant construction of feeble, ill, passive and dependent female characters in male-authored naturalist and decadent novels (Mesch 2006: 81sqq.).

Gender and literary genre

Starting from the studies of Susan Lanser at the end of the 1980s, research, particularly in the field of English literature, has inquired into the connections between narratology and gender studies (Nünning/Nünning 2004). It has been shown that not only are literary genres linked to gender issues, but genuine narratological concepts like narrator, focalization, point of view, etc. are not at all neutral but need to be examined from a gender perspective.

The specific relation between women writers and narrative genres in European literary history has been analyzed in a recent publication with case studies for nine European countries (Steinbrügge/Van Dijk 2014; see already Steinbrügge 1996 and 2000). The study pays special attention to the diverse uses of narrative genres and to strategic orientations that deploy paratext for genre discussions; its results point clearly to the gap between stereotypical perceptions of "feminine" narrative genres and the reality of women's writing through the centuries. In addition, the investigative potential of gender aspects in other genres (poetry, drama) has been highlighted.12

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Taking again the case of eighteenth-century Spain as an example, women's production was relatively varied, ranging from poetry and theatre to religious works, reformist essays, institutional addresses to the queen, and translations of philosophical, agronomic and moral tracts.13 However, female writing was often associated by critics (as expressed by reviews in the periodical press) and to a certain extent also by readers (as suggested by inventories of private libraries) predominantly with certain genres and fields, mainly novels, pedagogical tracts, travel narratives, and letters. Here some distinction should be made between two related issues. Firstly, gender and genre are linked in a specific way in different countries (which differs from case to case), displaying sometimes marked discrepancies between national literary cultures. For instance, a point we will develop further below, writing novels was not a common or encouraged choice for Spanish women authors of the eighteenth century, because of the dubious moral connotation of the genre, although novels written by foreign women authors were often read in the original and translated. And secondly, export can change, and it certainly has changed in past times, the perception and classification of a female author. A telling example is that of Stéphanie Ducrest, comtesse de Genlis, whose writing during an exceptionally long life and career cut across genres and subjects, from poetry to politics, from fiction to education, but whose international success was above all linked to her moral and pedagogical novels and short stories (Adèle et Théodore, Les veillées du château). To such an extent was this the case that only this aspect of her multifaceted profile was projected to countries other than her native France (Plagnol-Diéval 2000; Bolufer 2002, 2011a; Keilhauer 2012, forthcoming).

Poetological debates as gendered debates

The traditions of the Querelles, particularly strong in French culture and literature, could be understood as pluri-dimensional cultural debates always including a gender dimension. They should be analysed particularly in their intertwining of ideological, aesthetic and gender discourses and debates. A very relevant case here is, of course, the well known Europe-wide Querelle des sexes or Querelle des femmes and its close connections with political and intellectual developments (such as the birth of early modern monarchies and the creation of universities), which modified gender relations and roles (Aichinger/Bidwell-Steiner/Bösch/Cescutti 2003; Viennot/Pellegrin 2012: particulary 7–30; Haase-Dubosc/Henneau 2013; Bolufer/Cabré 2013). Similarly, another European debate, the Querelle des Anciens et des Modernes was, at least in France, at the same time a dispute between agents of the preciosity that was codified as feminine and their enemies, such as Boileau (DeJean 1997).

Another interesting example is that of the development of the modern novel in eighteenth-century Europe and the moral and literary debates it provoked. As many studies have shown, no matter how successful among both male and female readers the genre was all over Europe, it continued to be considered morally dubious (Mander 2007; Reid 2010). The reason for this was the fact that it became associated with women but, above all, with a particular type of reading (involved, empathic, emotional, imaginative) deemed to be particularly dangerous not only for women themselves, but for the whole of the social and moral order. In the specific case of Spain, moral distrust of the novel determined that women writers hardly ever ventured into the genre, and when they did, it was through translations. This was contrary to what happened in France or Britain, where women became prominent novelists, and only later were displaced by successful male authors such as Richardson, Rousseau and Goethe, and still later marginalized by the rejection of the sentimental novel in favor of realistic forms (which, however, are less contrary to the sentimental paradigm than their "founding fathers" and literary histories suggest) (Cohen 1999; Blanco 1995).

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Moreover, the poetological debates about realism and naturalism, unanimously interpreted by literary historiography as the decisive turning points of nineteenth-century literature, cannot be understood without taking their gendered dimension into consideration. Both realist and naturalist authors make considerable efforts to define their novels as a male and even virile genre; "nous avons besoin de la virilité du vrai pour être glorieux": this is how Émile Zola puts his poetological ideas in a nutshell (Zola 2004: 324).14 Several studies have shown, both for the French and Spanish contexts, that this "gendering of poetics" has led to a "masculinization of the novel" in the nineteenth century (Cohen 1999: 74, 194),15 an idea often repeated in literary histories without further reflection: The redefinition of the realist and naturalist novel as a genre written by men for a male public is far from being without any motivation. Rather, it is an insistent reaction to the female omnipresence in the literary field (Jagoe 1993: 226; Medina/Zecchi 2002: 9).

Interference of political context and gender issues

The origin of the historiography of literature in the nineteenth century is responsible for the exclusion of most women from the literary canon in many European countries (Reid 2010, 2011; Kulessa 2013; Steinbrügge 2013). Its recovery in order to consolidate the nation state and define national identity was often directly linked with political goals that must be included in the analysis.

This process of women authors' inclusion and exclusion of literary history is largely dependent on political issues, a fact that is often forgotten in the history of women writers. Nation building from the eighteenth century on sometimes stimulated the inclusion of contemporary "women of letters" both in the traditional catalogues (originated in the Renaissance) of "illustrious women" and the incipient "national" literary histories that started to be written at this time. For example, it was in order to vindicate the values of Spanish literature vis-à-vis its Italian detractors that a work like the Apologetic and historical essay on Spanish literature (Saggio storico-apologetico sulla letteratura spagnola, 1778–1781) by the Spanish Jesuit Francisco Javier Lampillas, exiled in Italy, was conceived and published; it included in its Spanish translation (1783–1786) by the female erudite Josefa Amar a preface which praised the merits of Spanish women writers of the past (Bolufer 2000).

Another example is that of one of the most famous protagonists of French literary history in the 19th century, Gustave Lanson.16 The republican and anti-aristocratic bourgeois Lanson excludes women writers from his highly influential Histoire de la literature française (1894) – among them some who previously had an undisputed position in the literary canon – as part of an intellectual and political project to strengthen the union of the French under the Third Republic. He appeals to a "national character" which he defines in clearly gendered terms: the dominant properties of this character are intelligence, reason and "l'esprit d'analyse, subtil et fort, et la logique, aigue et serrée" (quoted in Reid 2010: 90; "the subtle and strong spirit of analyzing and the tight and pointed logic"). He attributes these properties exclusively to men and sees them in contradiction to those seen in women, such as emotionality, spontaneity and lack of systematic reasoning. At the same time – to the puzzlement and indignation of some of his republican colleagues like Camille Sée – he incorporates and dignifies the person and work of a previously disregarded Mme de Maintenon. In this case, Lanson promotes someone whom he sees mainly as a Catholic writer, in order to support the conservative currents of the Third Republic against the growing feminist current, whose genealogy is linked to the tradition of Madame de Graffigny, Olympe de Gouges or Madame de Lambert.

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Breaking the national frame

Going beyond the national frame allows us not only to develop a comparative approach to the status of women writers in different countries but also to explore various types of links between male and female authors of different cultures. Two different but connected considerations should prevent studies from adopting the inadequate and too narrow approach of "national literature". To begin with, the framework of the nation state is openly anachronistic, given the fact that, as it is well known, early modern European political constellations had very different configurations from present ones, in terms of borders as well as nature, and many of them extended their limits not only to geographically discontinuous and legally, linguistically and religiously heterogeneous territories in Europe but to colonial empires in other continents as well. In particular, the transatlantic dimension of literary production and reception should not be ignored, even if, due to practical limitations, it cannot always be properly dealt with on a large scale using quantitative methods.

One possible illustration of this is the communication networks between convents of the same religious order in the Catholic world, connecting one country to another, but most particularly different territories of the same monarchy across the oceans in several continents, as often happened in the Spanish and Portuguese colonial empires from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century.17 Another revealing example is the circulation and appropriation of an eighteenth-century French novel with a colonial plot, such as the Lettres d'une péruvienne by Françoise de Graffigny mentioned above. It was a great success, incessantly reprinted and republished, translated and adapted – sometimes thoroughly modified – into several European languages (from Italian and Spanish to English and German, Danish and Russian) (Blais 1997; Kahn 2004; Rivara 2004). Even more illuminating is the fact that its Spanish version of 1792, written by a Castilian woman, was stimulated by a Creole lady, the widow of a viceroy of New Spain (Bolufer 2014; Defourneaux 1962; Smith 2003). While it was being written, it circulated in manuscript form and was discussed within a circle of male and female intellectuals, as a part of sociability and political networks. This context needs to be taken into account in order to understand the multiple layers of meaning of a version which emphasized Graffigny's own criticism of women's subordination, while it undermined her questioning of the Spanish conquest of America. Moreover, upon publication, that version was accused – probably unfairly – of being a plagiarism of a previous one written in colonial America (Peru) by a third woman, thus raising a public discussion between accuser and accused across the ocean. The story of the reworking of this novel and its changing political and cultural uses would be mutilated and distorted if we failed to consider its projection on both sides of the Atlantic within the limits of the eighteenth-century Spanish empire.

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Another telling example is the history of the nineteenth-century Spanish novel, which cannot be understood in a strictly national frame as suggested by the intellectual discourse at the end of the nineteenth century.18 In this context, it is important to stress that transnational reception in itself is a gendered parameter. As a brilliant study by Alba Blanco has pointed out, the poetological debates in Spain tend to consider the reception of French literary ideas a female undertaking: "[...] imitation is singularly linked to gender. Women are seen as the producers and reproducers of imitation. [...] literary scholarship can, therefore, neatly argue that women writers and readers are the internal agents, so to speak, that impede the development of a national literature." (Blanco 1995: 131). José F. Montesinos' introduction to the history of the Spanish nineteenth-century novel published in 1955 and still considered a standard study, reveals the persistence of such an interference of nationalist, literary and gender discourse. For Montesinos, it is women's literary passion ("pasión literaria") which caused a triumph of foreign literary fashions ("[el] triunfo de lo extranjero") and prevented the formation of a genuine Spanish novel for a long time ("hizo imposible por mucho tiempo una novela española"; Montesinos 1983: 161). Any investigation in this context should take into consideration not only the form of reception, but also the gendered connotations these receptions acquire in their respective contexts.

Moreover, special attention should be paid to the fact that nationalism, gender and canonization are inextricably mixed together. As Alba Blanco has shown in her study mentioned above, canonization in the context of Spanish nineteenth-century literary historiography is based on two parameters: Spanishness and virility. Authors whose texts are influenced by foreign models automatically have a precarious status in the aesthetic debates of their time and risk their exclusion from the canon. Yet a lack of "Spanishness" can be compensated for by a surplus of the other parameter: virility (Blanco 1995: 133). Firstly, this explains the overbearing virile rhetoric of an author like Eduardo López Bago who, in contrast with his contemporaries and in the name of a radical Spanish naturalism, follows Zola's poetological ideas without any restrictions. "I did not [...] write to entertain damsels. My readers are those who think and live with the century, scientists, these legal consultants who study the analyzed social questions in their writings [...]."19 This is López Bago's ideal – and cliché alike – picture of a male reader of his novels which aims at veiling his borrowing from foreign models.

Secondly, the dialectic of Spanishness and virility explains the canonization of the Spanish naturalist Emilia Pardo Bazán. As a woman writer adapting the French naturalist paradigm, her status in the literary field is doubly precarious. Nonetheless, she is included in the canon as her Spanishness – i.e. her artistic contribution to Spanish national identity – enables her to compensate for her lack of virility.20

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Integrating translation in a historiography of European Literatures

Traditional literary history excludes translation by nature through its national frame. In a re-conceptionalized form, however, translation would have to be re-included in a transnational literary history. New approaches to translation focus on the fact that the very concept of translation cannot be accommodated within a notion of mere "reception", nor can the transnational circulation of a work or an author be reduced to the statistics of their translations (Borutti/Heidmann 2012; Wolf 2008).21 Working on translation requires intensive, qualitative analysis which takes into consideration modern theories of translation as creative (re)writing as well as historically specific conceptions of translation as adaptation – an adaptation to aesthetic, religious and moral standards in different contexts. In any case translation should be considered as textual transformation, as a cultural practice which implies changes in meaning.22

Accordingly, literary and historical studies have started to show an interest not only in women 'authors' who wrote 'original' texts, often subsequently translated (originality itself being a historically contingent category), but also in those who translated either female or male writings. Translation was (and still is) a gendered practice. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries it was frequently performed, all over Europe, by women, who often used it to legitimize their access to the republic of letters, thus profiting from (and also contributing to) the flexible distinctions between translation and creation which were common in the period (Fidecaro/Partzsch/Van Dijk/Cossy 2009; Bolufer 2010). This has been extensively acknowledged and analyzed by feminist literary criticism, particularly in regard to women's translations of other women. However, the results of these studies have neither been sufficiently integrated into more general views of eighteenth-century culture, nor have they always been seen in a comparative perspective. More ambitious studies of how gender functions (or not) in translation as an intellectual, social and cultural activity are needed, which would take into account all possible combinations of an author's and a translator's sex, and would pay attention to the interplay of gender with other differences (such as status, education, religion, language, intellectual inclinations; target audiences, book markets and political contexts).

The case of Stéphanie de Genlis shows how translation can change the status and even the genre of a text by re-contextualizing it via paratextual elements such as prefaces, annotations, glossaries and the editing context. Some of the educational works of Genlis seem to have been perceived via their German translation as a platform to question educational and ideological positions of the famous author and to discuss her ambiguous position before and during the development of the French revolution. The male translator of some of her moral and educational treatises used his notes to emphasize "serious errors" of the author, thus dismantling her authority as a writer through his translation (Genlis 1797). Translating plays is a particularly intricate field where textual modification was very common up to the end of the nineteenth century. The rewriting of one of Genlis's plays by Freiherr von Knigge converted a moral and didactic chamber piece written for female performance in private circles into a public play and introduced a cast composed of both sexes. Knigge even inserted a male French educator who represents the widespread stereotype German vision of the French as superficial, cowardly and double-tongued, assembling negative 'feminine' attributes. He could not get further away from Genlis's own educational objectives (Keilhauer forthcoming).

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A not so wild wish…

The various directions sketched above for the development of a gendered history of European literary culture are far from exhaustive, but already the few examples show a wide field of investigation to be explored in the future by interdisciplinary and trans-cultural research. In our view, it has to be developed around the key idea of gender linkage and interaction in all dimensions of literary culture and literary texts.

We still need to push our research in new, complementary directions in order to produce a truly gendered literary history which can make a more decisive impact on the academic disciplines both of literary studies and of cultural and intellectual history. This is an ambitious long-term aim, indeed, but we think it attainable with a collaborative effort in interdisciplinary research on a European and global level – a not so "wild wish", then (to use Mary Wollstonecraft's words), which will, in due time, thoroughly transform our understanding of European shared heritage and history.


AHR Forum (2008): "Revisiting Gender: A Useful Category for Historiographical Analysis", in: American Historical Review 113.1, 1344–1429.

Aichinger, Wolfram/Bidwell-Steiner, Marlen/Bösch, Judith/Cescutti, Eva (eds.) (2003): The Querelle des Femmes in the Romania. Studies in honour of Friederike Hassauer. Wien: Turia und Kant.

Blais, Sylvie (1997): "Continuations to Graffigny's Les lettres d'une Péruvienne", in: Woodward, Servanne (ed.): Altered Narratives: Female Eighteenth-Century French Authors Reinterpreted. London/Ontario: Mestengo Press, 1–15.

Blanco, Alda (1995): "Gender and National Identity: The Novel in Nineteenth-Century Spanish Literary History", in: Charnon-Deutsch, Lou/Labanyi, Jo (eds.): Culture and Gender in Nineteenth-Century Spain. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 120–136.

Bolufer, Mónica (2000): "Galerías de 'mujeres ilustres', o el sinuoso camino de la excepción a la norma cotidiana", in: Hispania LX.204, 181–224.

Bolufer, Mónica (2002): "Pedagogía y moral en el siglo de las Luces. Las escritoras francesas y su recepción en España", in: Revista de Historia Moderna. Anales de la Universidad de Alicante 20, 251–292.

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Bolufer, Mónica (2010): "Translation and intellectual reflection in the work of Spanish Enlightened women: Inés Joyes (1731–1808)", in: Gilleir, Anke/Montoya, Alicia C./Van Dijk, Suzan (eds.): Women Writing Back/Writing Back Women. Leiden: Brill, 327–346.

Bolufer, Mónica (2011a): "Conversations from a Distance. Spanish and French Eighteenth-Century Women Writers", in: Ros, Xon de/Hazbun, Geraldine (eds.): A Companion to Spanish Women's Studies. London: Tamesis, 175–188.

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1 A first version of this essay was presented and controversially discussed at the international COST workshop at Münster (Germany), April 3rd to 5th, 2013, and the final Conference of the COST-Action ISO 901 Women Writers in History. Toward a New Understanding of European Literary Culture (2009–2013) in The Hague, June 19th to 21st, 2013. We have benefited from collective discussions and input during the COST Action, for which we would like to thank our colleagues. The authors are deeply grateful particularly to Lieselotte Steinbrügge and Rotraud von Kulessa for their very helpful and productive comments and suggestions and to Ina Schabert for her profound critical reading and helpful input. Mónica Bolufer's participation in this piece is a part of the project HAR2014-53802-P-26129, funded by the Spanish MINECO.

2 The authors of this paper participated actively in this action and profited very much from this experience. For more information on the action see [, 12.10.2015] The database is to be found under [, 12.10.2015].

3 Société internationale pour l'étude des femmes de l'Ancien Régime [, 12.10.2015]; Bibliografia de escritoras españolas [, 12.10.2015].

4 Grupo de Estudios sobre la mujer en España y las Américas [, 12.10.2015]; The history of Nordic women's literature [, 12.10.2015]; The Orlando project [, 12.10.2015]; The Sophie project: A Digital Library of Works by German-Speaking Women [ See also Zavala 1993–2000.

5 For the English context see as representative the accurate inventory of the research tradition on the eighteenth century up to 2006 in Schellenberg 2007.

6 As general, theoretical reflections, see AHR Forum 2008; Rose 2010. Studies of literary, artistic and intellectual practices as gendered include Goodman 1994; Wilson-Chevalier 2007, among others.

7 See particularly the case of George Sand in Van Dijk/Wiedemann 2003 .

8 No analysis of the presence of women authors in eighteenth-century Spanish libraries has ever been published. These partial results come from research on several libraries owned by noblemen, politicians, intellectuals and merchants currently conducted by Mónica Bolufer.

9 Mónica Bolufer, "'To the female sex' or 'for all kinds of readers'? Imagining an audience for women writers in eighteenth-century Spain", paper presented at the COST conference Voices in Dialogue. Ideational Production and Reception of Women's Writing in Europe, Chawton House-University of Southampton, november 2011.

10 The intertextual debt of La desheredada, opus magnum of the Spanish realist Pérez Galdós, to the contemporary women writer Faustina Sáez de Melgar is already proved by Alicia G. Andreu in her edition of Sáez de Melgar's novel La cruz del olivar (Sáez de Melgar 1980: 7–16).

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11 See Stella Blandy's theatre critique of the piece Claude by Dumas fils, in Avenir des femmes (no. 100, 6.4.1873). See for further documentation Keilhauer 2005.

12 Concerning gender aspects in poetry see Schukowski 2013, in particular chapter 2.1 ("Die Verbindung zwischen 'Gender' und der Gattung Lyrik"), where the relation between gender and genre is explicitly discussed. The potential of gender for the analysis of drama in theatre is discussed by Pailer/Schößler 2011.

13 Bolufer 2011a; López-Cordón 2005.

14 The gendered nature of Zola's 'experimental' poetic is stressed by Kelly 1995. It is striking (and typical) that Zola uses the term 'virility' instead of 'masculinity', which gives his idea a connotation of sexual power ("puissance sexuelle") and fathering ("capacité d'engendrer"), see the definition of the term 'virilité' in the 7th edition of the Dictionnaire de l'Académie française, II (Paris: F. Didot, 1878: 945).

15 See also Jagoe 1993: 74 for the 'masculinization of the novel' in nineteenth-century Spain. For a detailed reflection on the gendering of realist and naturalist poetics in France and Spain see Schlieper 2013a.

16 We would like to thank Lieselotte Steinbrügge for giving us helpful input concerning this argument; see also Steinbrügge 2013.

17 A recent collaborative project between Spanish and Portuguese scholars, directed by Nieves Baranda, has made this type of networks all the more evident.

18 A well known example is Pérez Galdós's point of view on the realist and naturalist novel which he interprets not as an 'import' of French paradigms, but as a 'repatriation' of the originally Spanish picaresque novel (see his prologue to La Regenta, opus magnum of his contemporary Clarín, in Bonet 1990: 195–205).

19 "[N]o [...] escribí para entrener doncellas. Mis lectores son los que piensan y viven con el siglo, los hombres de ciencia, esos mismos jurisconsultos que estudian en sus páginas las cuestiones sociales analizadas [...]." Eduardo López Bago, 'Al Ministerio público, a la autoridad gubernativa', in La Monja (López Bago 1885: 278), translation Hendrik Schlieper). See also López Bago's prologue 'Al lector' in El Separatista, where he defines the naturalist novel as "a man's work" ("obra de varón") (López Bago 1997: 84). For López Bago and his project of a radical Spanish naturalism see Fernández 1995 and Schlieper 2013b.

20 "Although her [Emilia Pardo Bazán's] contemporaries were very unsympathetic towards her and her literary production – if not downright nasty – they could not silence her voice given that she shared their project of a Spanish realist novel which, at least in theory, reflected and spoke to the nation as a whole." (Blanco 1995: 133). For a detailed contextualisation of Pardo Bazán within the gendered discourse of canonization around 1900, see Schlieper 2014.

21 Case studies concerning the particular role of women in translation are to be found in Fidecaro/Partzsch/Van Dijk/Cossy 2009.

22 As a general, historical reflection, see Burke/Hsia 2009. On the eighteenth century, a golden age for translations, see Oz-Salzberger 2006; Stockhorst 2010; Bolufer 2011b.