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Eighteenth-Century Studies 36.4 (2003) 602-607
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Otto-Friedrich-Universität, Bamberg, Germany
Ala Alryyes. Original Subjects: The Child, the Novel, and the Nation (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001). Pp. 226. $35.00 cloth. $20.00 paper.
Olga B. Cragg and Rosena Davison, eds. Sexualité, mariage et famille au XVIIIe siècle (Québéc: Les Presses de l'Université Laval, 1998). Pp. xvii + 376. $35.00.
Stephan Klaus Schindler. Das Subjekt als Kind: Die Erfindung der Kindheit im Roman des 18. Jahrhunderts. Philologische Studien und Quellen 130 (Berlin: Erich Schmidt Verlag, 1994). Pp. 236. fi46.80.
Naomi Tadmor. Family and Friends in Eighteenth-Century England: Household, Kinship, and Patronage (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001). Pp. x + 312. $60.00.
Scholarly interest in the state of the family as a basic institution of society has been rekindled in recent years, producing a body of studies on the family or on related issues. Each of the four books under consideration contributes to the ongoing debate from a historical perspective, by investigating the representation of sexuality, marriage, the family, education and childhood in eighteenth-century English, French, and German literature. Olga Cragg's and Rosena Davison's collection attempts to understand urgent concerns at the threshold of the third millennium (e.g. women's rights, or family abuse) with the help of eighteenth-century discourses. Stephan K. Schindler and Ala Alryyes enquire into the child's function for the formation of the subject or national identities. Naomi Tadmor seeks to recontextualize concepts of the family within an eighteenth-century cultural matrix.
The title of the collection by Cragg and Davison recalls Lawrence Stone's pioneering TheFamily, Sex and Marriage in England 1500-1800 (1977). More [End Page 602] limited in its temporal scope than Stone's monograph, the proceedings volume of a conference held at Vancouver in 1997 comprises thirty case studies organized in three thematic strands. The reader benefits from a concise and lucid introduction that establishes coherence by elaborating on the two guiding questions of the conference and the volume: How do eighteenth-century French novels, especially libertine and clandestine literature, represent ideas of sexuality, marriage and the family? And what were the writers' attitudes towards these issues? Employing a number of critical approaches, the distinct case studies offer a range of diverse answers to these questions.
The first section, on sexuality, covers a wide range of topics including homosexuality, eunuchism, cultural differences between discourses on sexuality in a colonial context, and the conflicting relationship of libertinism and Christianity. The contributions provide readings of libertine novels as well as biographical and epistolary writing by authors such as Crébillon fils, Helvétius, Diderot, Mme de Charrière, Mlle de Lubert, and Mme de Morency. The second part offers some valuable insights especially into women's writings on marriage, most notably by Isabelle de Charrière and Olympe de Gouges. The ten articles on the family, finally, raise questions about the intricate web of family relationships and about children's education, with discussions of texts by Rousseau, Berquin and Riballier.
The volume's most compelling contributions productively combine with other essays in the collection to mutually enlighten allied issues. A number of articles, for instance, explore the intersection of discourses on sexuality, marriage and the family with liberty, equality and legitimacy. Confronting Rousseau's La Nouvelle Héloïse and Sade's La Philosophie dans le boudoir, Christie McDonald asks how concepts of liberty and equality coincide with shifting concepts on sexuality and marriage. She convincingly demonstrates how the different discourses professed by Rousseau and Sade not only inform their views of equality and liberty, but also engender egalitarian social models of totally different character and ethical foundation. Another conflict lies at the heart of Colette Piau-Gillot's article, which reads literary representations of illegitimate marriages against the historical background of marriage law and canonical marriage practice from 1650 to 1750. According to Piau-Gillot, clandestine and secret marriages unsettled key concerns of the legitimate marriage, for example by refusing parental authority, or by disrespecting given promises. The legitimacy...