Women Letter Writers and the Construction of a European Space

By choosing the epistolary genre, Mme de Staël (1766-1817) expressed her attachment to this form of expression, which allowed her to disseminate her thought across Europe even while in exile

As a result of the expansion of space and acceleration of time that followed the upheavals of the French Revolution, and seized by the mobility and modernity of the moment, women flouted an epistolary medium that had largely been limited to the domestic sphere, and transformed their correspondence into a networking of the new European space. They transgressed both borders and gender differences, and mapped out a new cartography of the continent in which they had a role and visibility. They also built a constellation of epistolary exchanges, which they sometimes used to convey public opinion on the European scale. A transformation took place during the nineteenth century, as the epistolary medium became a public form of writing in publications that were specifically epistolary in character—Briefroman, letter novels, fictional correspondence, open letters—and that signaled women’s initial entry into the political sphere.