Virtue and Terror: Robespierre, Williams and the Corruption of Revolutionary Ideals
Marie Antoinette and renowned republicans like Charlotte Corday and Madame Roland have been the focus of much attention by feminist scholars of the French Revolution; in literary studies, these public female figures have proved significant for women writers’ conflicted responses to the revolutionary crisis and women’s changing roles within it.1 Studies of canonical male Romantics, meanwhile, have emphasized these poets’ responses to male figures like Maximilien Robespierre, Napoleon and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Rather than revisit this familiar ground, I wish in this chapter to examine the significance of Robespierre for women writers. In privileging gender (unconsciously in the case of canonical studies) by considering influence solely along gendered lines, and resistance largely across gendered lines, we miss out on the dynamic political interplay between the increasingly unstable gender boundaries of the revolutionary era (see Hunt, ‘Unstable Boundaries’). Robespierre’s pivotal role in the Reign of Terror inspired a remarkable series of writings by women, which reveal both a predictable resistance to Jacobin sexual politics, and the limits of this middle-class feminism itself.
KeywordsVortex Hunt Burial Kelly Doyle
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