Arvède Barine: History, Modernity, and Feminism
Arvède Barine, pseudonym of Louise-Cécile Vincens (1840–1908), is hardly known today, but her histories, biographies, and literary criticism were immensely popular in France, Europe, and North America during her lifetime. This essay links Barine’s historical practices to her ambivalent relationship to feminism and modernity, based on her published works and the extensive correspondence addressed to Barine held in the Manuscripts Department of the National Library of France in Paris. While she explicitly rejected feminist claims for legal equality with men, she was very much interested in ways that women in the past exerted influence and conducted their lives. This chapter contends that this ambiguity lies in the three different levels of analysis Barine applied to her subjects: inherited traits, social and cultural history, and individual choices.