Madame de Staël Criticism - Essay

Noreen J. Swallow (essay date 1981)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Portraits: A Feminist Appraisal of Mme de Staël's Delphine,” in Atlantis, Vol. 7, No. 1, Fall, 1981, pp. 65-76.

[In the following essay, Swallow assesses Delphine as it depicts “the oppressive effects of patriarchal hegemony.”]

Madame de Staël has suffered from superficial and fallacious criticism disposed to dismiss her novels as clumsy, dated romans à clef. Certainly there are weaknesses in Staël's writing—she is, for example, annoyingly prone to prolixity and repetition—but her contribution as a writer of fiction has been unduly minimized, especially by critics prepared to see no more in Staëlien theme and characterization...

(The entire section is 6859 words.)

Madelyn Gutwirth (essay date 1985)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Forging a Vocation: Germaine de Staël on Fiction, Power, and Passion,” in Bulletin of Research in the Humanities, Vol. 86, No. 3, 1983-1985, pp. 242-54.

[In the following essay, Gutwirth analyzes de Staël's views on love, passion, and ambition as expressed in De l’influence des passions.]

Quelle époque ai-je choisie pour faire un traité sur le bonheur des individus et des nations! (What an age I have chosen to write a treatise on the happiness of individuals and nations!)

—Staël De l’influence des passions … Introduction

“Marat,” wrote Germaine de Staël...

(The entire section is 5840 words.)

Charlotte Hogsett (essay date 1987)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “History and Story,” in The Literary Existence of Germaine de Staël, Southern Illinois University Press, 1987, pp. 71-93.

[In the following excerpt, Hogsett examines de Staël's attempts to insert feminine ways of narration into a masculine-oriented history and literature in De la littérature considérée dans ses rapports avec les institutions sociales and Delphine.]

Staël published nothing between Passions in 1796 and On Literature in 1800. Simone Balayé speculates that between 1796 and late 1798, when she began the writing of On Literature, she was perhaps working on the second part of the Passions.1 That...

(The entire section is 10244 words.)

Deborah Heller (essay date 1990)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Tragedy, Sisterhood, and Revenge in Corinne,” in Papers on Language & Literature, Vol. 26, No. 2, Spring, 1990, pp. 212-32.

[In the following essay, Heller evaluates the impact of de Staël's feminist narrative in Corinne on twentieth century readers.]


The publication of Avriel H. Goldberger's new translation of Germaine de Staël's Corinne ou l’Italie makes accessible to an American readership the novel that Ellen Moers, in her early pioneering study of women's literature, called “the book of the woman of genius” and whose “enormous influence on literary women” she traced throughout the...

(The entire section is 8521 words.)

Frank Paul Bowman (essay date 1991)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Communication and Power in Germaine de Staël: Transparency and Obstacle,” in Germaine de Staël: Crossing the Borders, edited by Madelyn Gutwirth, Avriel Goldberger, and Karyna Szmurlo, Rutgers University Press, 1991, pp. 55-68.

[In the following essay, Bowman considers the problem of communication in de Staël's writing.]

One of the results of absolute power which most contributed to Napoleon's downfall was that, bit by bit, no one dared any longer tell him the truth about anything. He ended up unaware that winter arrived in Moscow in November because none of his courtiers was Roman enough to tell him something even that...

(The entire section is 5373 words.)

Naomi Schor (essay date 1994)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Corinne: The Third Woman,” in L’Esprit Créateur, Vol. XXXIV, No. 3, Fall, 1994, pp. 99-106.

[In the following essay, Schor examines the relationship between death and femininity in Corinne.]

On eût dit que dans ces lieux, comme dans la tragédie de Hamlet, les ombres erraient autour du palais où se donnaient les festins.

Madame de Staël, Corinne ou l’Italie

In March, 1992, while on leave in Paris, I prepared a synopsis of a paper on death in Staël's Corinne that I proposed to give at the annual fall meeting of Nineteenth-Century French Studies. A month...

(The entire section is 3252 words.)

Gretchen Rous Besser (essay date 1994)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Forays into Fiction: Delphine,” in Germaine de Staël Revisited, Twayne Publishers, 1994, pp. 64-76.

[In the following excerpt, Besser surveys the story, theme, and critical reception of Delphine.]

Staël's two principal novels were to earn her spectacular success. Her first full-length work of fiction, and her only experiment with the epistolary form,1 was the hugely popular Delphine. Recapitulating themes touched on in her short stories, Delphine has a well-developed if convoluted plot, presents a number of sharply defined characters, exemplifies social criticism at its most daring, and marks Staël's emergence as a...

(The entire section is 6297 words.)

Françoise Massardier-Kenney (essay date 1994)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Staël, Translation, and Race,” in Translating Slavery: Gender and Race in French Women's Writing, 1783-1823, edited by Doris Y. Kadish and Françoise Massardier-Kenney, Kent State University Press, 1994, pp. 135-45.

[In the following essay, Massardier-Kenney investigates de Staël's critique of cultural values in her work, particularly in the antislavery sentiment of Mirza.]

Germaine de Staël (1766-1817) is the only major woman author of the nineteenth century, with the exception of George Sand, who has managed to break through the silence in literary history surrounding women's writing during that time. Still, until recently her reputation has rested...

(The entire section is 5655 words.)

Jennifer Birkett (essay date 1995)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Speech in Action: Language, Society, and Subject in Germaine de Staël's Corinne,” in Eighteenth-Century Fiction, Vol. 7, No. 4, July, 1995, pp. 393-408.

[In the following essay, Birkett discusses the dynamics of subjective and collective narrative voice within the feminist text of Corinne.]

A central preoccupation in Germaine de Staël's Corinne, ou l’Italie (1807),1 and one which is returning to contemporary agendas with a political urgency equal to that of its feminist theme, is the problematic of the relation between the individual subject and the social and political community. In his influential collection of lectures,...

(The entire section is 6321 words.)

Patrick Coleman (essay date 1995)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Exile and Narrative Voice in Corinne,” in Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, Vol. 24, 1995, pp. 91-105.

[In the following essay, Coleman contends that the influential narrative voice of Corinne is traceable “to Staël's own experience with exile and other political expressions.”]

Exile was a decisive experience for Germaine de Staël, shaping not only the course of her life but the character of her work as well. If women's fame, in Staël's phrase, can be defined as “le deuil éclatant du bonheur,”1 her own reluctant career, out of which emerged such works as Corinne and De l’Allemagne, provides the most...

(The entire section is 7404 words.)

John Isbell (essay date 1996)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Painful Birth of the Romantic Heroine: Staël as Political Animal, 1786-1818,” in Romanic Review, Vol. 87, No. 1, January, 1996, pp. 59-66.

[In the following essay, Isbell argues that de Staël chose to produce literary art in response to her exclusion from politics as a woman.]

1. On a raison d’exclure les femmes des affaires politiques et civilies. Staël, 1810.

2. Depuis la Révolution, les hommes ont pensé qu’il était politiquement et moralement utile de réduire les femmes à la plus absurde médiocrité. Staël, 18001.


(The entire section is 4480 words.)

Renee Winegarten (essay date 1998)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “An Early Dissident: Madame de Staël,” in The New Criterion, Vol. 16, No. 9, May, 1998, pp. 17-22.

[In the following essay, Winegarten probes the results of de Staël's exile from France during the Napoleonic regime.]

There is a world elsewhere.

Coriolanus Act III, scene iii

Exile is a terrible fate, a source of bitterness and grief since the time of the ancient Hebrews as they sat down by the waters of Babylon and wept. In our own tormented era, a great many people have felt what it means to be forcibly cut off, perhaps forever, from their treasured familiar culture....

(The entire section is 3936 words.)