Review by Choice Review
This careful examination of both the images and impacts of stage actresses in France from the pre-Revolutionary era to the early 20th century shows how interpretation of such a category of women--on and off stage--illuminates other issues of gender, morality, and citizenship. Using a creative yet comprehensive range of archival sources, fiction, and journalism, Berlanstein (history, Univ. of Virginia) traces a complicated evolution of roles and perceptions within Parisian society and the French state. Actresses enmeshed in aristocratic libertinage and influence, for example, gave way to wider censure and exclusion from a public realm even as the Revolution extended male participation. In the 19th century, temptations and dalliance defined the differences between aristocrats and bourgeoisie without empowering or even accepting women of the stage until the republican years late in that century. A final chapter, in fact, distinguishes the actions of women of the theater themselves within shifting perceptions and definitions of the public sphere. In its fresh perspectives on gender, sexuality, power, and the definition of social norms, this study should prove interesting to scholars of contemporary Europe and to wider discussions of metropolitan social and cultural change. Upper-division undergraduates and above. G. W. McDonogh Bryn Mawr College
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
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