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Germaine de Staël and the narrative(s) of her alter-ego Corinne : The example of Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun’s portrait

Cabak Rédei, Anna LU (2019) In At the Interface / Probing the Boundaries 115. p.68-78
Abstract (Swedish)
The Swiss/French writer and political thinker Germaine de Staël (1766–1817) was the daughter of Mme Necker and M. Necker, both of Swiss origin and Protestants. Before the revolution her father had been minister of finance and her mother used to host of one most important salon in Paris. Mme de Staël, as she was called after the marriage in 1786 with the Swedish ambassador to France, Carl-Magnus de Staël von Holstein, was thus born into one of the most illustrious circles of Parisian cultural and political elite. Germaine’s political ideas and background made her a target for Napoleon’s animosity. This resentment between the two affected her self-perception, which was based on her idea of representing the French culture, or even the genius... (More)
The Swiss/French writer and political thinker Germaine de Staël (1766–1817) was the daughter of Mme Necker and M. Necker, both of Swiss origin and Protestants. Before the revolution her father had been minister of finance and her mother used to host of one most important salon in Paris. Mme de Staël, as she was called after the marriage in 1786 with the Swedish ambassador to France, Carl-Magnus de Staël von Holstein, was thus born into one of the most illustrious circles of Parisian cultural and political elite. Germaine’s political ideas and background made her a target for Napoleon’s animosity. This resentment between the two affected her self-perception, which was based on her idea of representing the French culture, or even the genius of the Parisian salon. However, that self-image might have been a ‘mask’ hiding de Staël’s true longings, namely to be loved and appreciated as a person and woman, at the time incompatible with being a ‘genius’, a concept reserved only for men. Germaine never stopped struggling for merging the two poles of her personality, and the creation of an alter-ego, the ‘genius’ Corinne, might have been an attempt to solve this issue. Nevertheless, 1807 Germaine de Staël published an autobiographical novel with the title Corinne, or Italy. But ultimately, the normative idea of womanhood seemed to have been a too hard nut to crack, even for Germaine. The latter is a question that this chapter aims at elucidating, by a cultural semiotic analyse of ÉlisabethVigée-Lebrun’s (1755-1842) portrait Portait of Mme de Staël as Corinne on Cap Misenum (1808-1809). In the portrait two narratives, or discourses, seem to meet and compete about what it is to be a woman, and to be a genius. Vigée-Lebrun had also been Marie-Antoinette’s favorite portraitist (Less)
Abstract
The Swiss/French writer and political thinker Germaine de Staël (1766–1817) was the daughter of Mme and M. Necker. Her father had been Minister of finance before the revolution and her mother used to host of one most important salons in Paris. Mme de Staël, as she was called after the marriage in 1786 with the Swedish ambassador to France, Carl-Magnus de Staël von Holstein, was thus born into one of the most illustrious circles of Parisian cultural and political elite. Germaine’s political ideas and background made her a target for Napoleon’s animosity. This resentment between the two affected her self-perception, which was based on her idea of representing the French culture, or even the genius of it. However, that self-image might have... (More)
The Swiss/French writer and political thinker Germaine de Staël (1766–1817) was the daughter of Mme and M. Necker. Her father had been Minister of finance before the revolution and her mother used to host of one most important salons in Paris. Mme de Staël, as she was called after the marriage in 1786 with the Swedish ambassador to France, Carl-Magnus de Staël von Holstein, was thus born into one of the most illustrious circles of Parisian cultural and political elite. Germaine’s political ideas and background made her a target for Napoleon’s animosity. This resentment between the two affected her self-perception, which was based on her idea of representing the French culture, or even the genius of it. However, that self-image might have been a ‘mask’ hiding de Staël’s true longings, to be loved as a person and woman, at the time incompatible with being a ‘genius’, a concept reserved for men.Germaine never stopped struggling for merging the two poles of her personality, the creation of an alter-ego, the ‘genius’ Corinne, might have been an attempt to solve this issue. In 1807 Germaine de Staël published a novel with the titleCorinne, or Italy. Her possible attempt to solve an inner conflict is a question that this chapter addresses, by analysing Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun’s (1755–1842) portrait Portait of Mme de Staël as Corinne on Cap Misenum (1808–1809). In the portrait two narratives seem to meet and compete about what it is to be a woman, and to be a genius. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
organization
publishing date
type
Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceeding
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Germaine de Staël, Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, Cultural semiotics, Cognition, Art history, Literature, French cultural history, Gender, Germaine de Staël, Elisabeth Vigée Lebrun, cultural semiotics, France, history culture
host publication
Matters of Telling
series title
At the Interface / Probing the Boundaries
editor
Comanducci, Carlo; Wilkinson, Alex; and
volume
115
pages
68 - 78
publisher
Brill Academic Publishers
ISSN
1570-7113
ISBN
978-90-04-38768-3
DOI
10.1163/9789004387683_008
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
b8731132-3eab-4172-a8d8-172564db4799
date added to LUP
2018-01-30 14:33:50
date last changed
2019-04-17 10:36:13
@inbook{b8731132-3eab-4172-a8d8-172564db4799,
  abstract     = {The Swiss/French writer and political thinker Germaine de Staël (1766–1817) was the daughter of Mme and M. Necker. Her father had been Minister of finance before the revolution and her mother used to host of one most important salons in Paris. Mme de Staël, as she was called after the marriage in 1786 with the Swedish ambassador to France, Carl-Magnus de Staël von Holstein, was thus born into one of the most illustrious circles of Parisian cultural and political elite. Germaine’s political ideas and background made her a target for Napoleon’s animosity. This resentment between the two affected her self-perception, which was based on her idea of representing the French culture, or even the genius of it. However, that self-image might have been a ‘mask’ hiding de Staël’s true longings, to be loved as a person and woman, at the time incompatible with being a ‘genius’, a concept reserved for men.Germaine never stopped struggling for merging the two poles of her personality, the creation of an alter-ego, the ‘genius’ Corinne, might have been an attempt to solve this issue. In 1807 Germaine de Staël published a novel with the titleCorinne, or Italy. Her possible attempt to solve an inner conflict is a question that this chapter addresses, by analysing Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun’s (1755–1842) portrait Portait of Mme de Staël as Corinne on Cap Misenum (1808–1809). In the portrait two narratives seem to meet and compete about what it is to be a woman, and to be a genius.},
  author       = {Cabak Rédei, Anna},
  editor       = {Comanducci, Carlo and Wilkinson, Alex},
  isbn         = {978-90-04-38768-3 },
  issn         = {1570-7113},
  keyword      = {Germaine de Staël,Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun,Cultural semiotics,Cognition,Art history,Literature,French cultural history,Gender,Germaine de Staël,Elisabeth Vigée Lebrun,cultural semiotics,France,history culture},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {68--78},
  publisher    = {Brill Academic Publishers},
  series       = {At the Interface / Probing the Boundaries},
  title        = {Germaine de Staël and the narrative(s) of her alter-ego Corinne : The example of Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun’s portrait},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/9789004387683_008},
  volume       = {115},
  year         = {2019},
}