Emma Francis (University of Warwick), "I like solitude before a Mirror...". Corinne and Marie Bashirktseff
This essay focuses on some of the detail of the British reception, re-issue and translation of Germaine de Staël's novel through the nineteenth century. Responses to and repackaging of Corinne are, I argue, a kind of barometer of the health and then the decline of the cultural confidence in women's poetry and of women's aesthetic legitimacy more generally during the century. Contained within the career in the 'English Corinne', the mobile and misprisioned fictions constructed around and in dialogue with de Staël's heroine is an index of how it was possible to conceive of the figure of the 'Woman of Genius'. My comments are related especially to shifts happening during the latter decades of the century. During the 1880s, in particular, the image and status of the female artist underwent some dramatic shifts, under pressure of profound changes in political and cultural accounts of femininity, due, in part, to the emergence of a more highly organized, theorized and widespread feminism. The Journal of Marie Bashkirtseff, published first in French in 1889 and rapidly translated into a highly popular English version in 1890 represents, I argue, a pivotal point in these shifts. The Journal was read in the late century as charting the decline of the legitimacy of the female artist, and thus the collapse of the image of civic and national articulation of female genius Corinne had represented through the nineteenth century.