In this highly original, thought-provoking study, Siobhán McIlvanney provides critical insight into the origins of the French women’s press. As the first work in English to examine the diverse range of publications which makes up this significant medium, Figurations of the Feminine traces the evolving figurations of womanhood which appear over the first ninety years of women’s journals in France. It argues that early French women’s journals are often characterised by a remarkable degree of feminist content and that this potential political interpellation of their contemporary readership is one which undermines the general conception of the women’s press as an idealised, hyper-femininised space inhabited by the intellectually idle – whether in the form of readers or writers - seeking at best escapism, at worst a benign reinforcement of the values of their quotidien. Through its analysis of different ‘generic’ subsections, whether the literary journal, the fashion magazine, the domestic press or more explicitly politicised outputs, Figurations of the Feminine challenges the critical commonplaces which have surrounded the women’s press since its genesis, both in France and elsewhere. It demonstrates the political richness of this medium and the privileged perspectives it gives us on the everyday lives of French women from across the class spectrum during this key historical period.
"An engaging and valuable contribution to the field of early French women’s history."
Professor Joyce Dixon-Fyle, DePauw University