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12 / DOBIE paintings. In the eighteenth-century demographic regime too many children were surviving to compete with their fathers for their mothers' breasts. These are just a few examples of Madelyn Gutwirth's method, a combination of literary, historical, iconographie and psychoanalytic approaches that prefigured and still represents the best in interdisciplinary work in the humanities. Gutwirth's interest in psychoanalysis and in public mythologies of family life made her a natural interlocutor for Lynn Hunt in the 1990s, after the publication of Hunt's The Family Romance of the French Revolution, and led to a friendly debate in the pages oÃ- French Historical Studies.*9 In response to a provocative defense of disciplinarity by Hunt, Gutwirth wrote that yes, we do come from disciplinary families whose values we espouse: "But sometimes we notice that our own families don't know as much as we once thought they did. We meet other families and are amazed at what they have to teach us, even about solving problems our own family has trouble grappling with."20 Madelyn Gutwirth has spent her career (so far) roaming into the disciplinary company of strangers who have become her friends, and we in turn have learnt much from her intellectual daring and gregariousness. I am certain that I speak for many historians when I say how glad I am that Madelyn Gutwirth's family romance led her wandering off towards my own tribe. THE CRITICAL METHOD OF MADELYN GUTWIRTH MADELEINE DOBIE Madelyn Gutwirth's long career as a scholar and teacher allows her to articulate the cultural memory of the field and the profession. When she discusses the status of gender-based studies of the eighteenth century, or the place of women in the contemporary academy, Gutwirth draws on her own broad experience of scholarly life, both before and since the advent of feminism. At the 2001 annual meeting of the American Society for EighteenthCentury Studies, Gutwirth warned against taking the changes that have occurred in scholarship and academic culture over the last three decades for granted. She spoke as a pioneer, reminding younger scholars that the historical and theoretical questions that are now explored so fruitfully, and the equal treatment of women scholars that we have come to expect, are rather recent developments. This cautionary outlook is also shaped by Gutwirth's scholarship; it reflects her view of the eighteenth century as time in which The Career and Work of Madelyn Gutwirth / 13 women's rights were debated and in some measure secured, only to be swept away in the backlash of the Revolution. Underpinning this transhistorical feminism are several important philosophical postulates: the perception of gender as a tendentious category that is always in flux, and the conviction that culture rarely advances in a progressive fashion toward the resolution of conflict. Both perceptions are central to Gutwirth's most influential study, The Twilight of the Goddesses. Scholars who are productive over a long period often become identified with the ideas and methods of a particular era. Madelyn Gutwirth is one of the striking exceptions, a scholar whose work has kept pace with, and indeed helped to shape, new trends in literary analysis. This dynamism is particularly evident in Twilight of the Goddesses. Whereas in her earlier books, Gutwirth approaches the question of women's place in eighteenth-century France through a study of the Âœuvre of a woman writer, Germaine de Staël, in Twilight of the Goddesses, making creative use of recent critical theory, she explores gender as a relational phenomenon, a fluid category shaped in the mould of representations. Twilight of the Goddesses is divided into two parts. The first half examines gender and culture in the latter half of the eighteenth century, while the second explores the unprecedented momentum brought to gender relations during the revolutionary period. The mast of works on eighteenth-century culture address only one of these periods; in fact, this separation constitutes something of a fracture within the field. Writing against the grain of this division, Gutwirth examines the gendered reconstruction of the nation during the Revolution from an historical perspective that reaches back as far as the comedies of Molière. She posits a deep...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1938-6133
Print ISSN
0360-2370
Pages
pp. 12-16
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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