The turbulent seas of cultural sisterhood: French connections in Mary Hays's "Female Biography (1803)"

Severine Genieys-Kirk, Gina Luria Walker (Editor), Mary Spondberg (Editor)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This study examines one of the major sources which Mary Hays used for her Female Biography (1803): Ann Thicknesse’s Sketches of the Lives and Writings of the Ladies of France (1778; 1780–1), an unacknowledged ‘plagiarisation’ of Joseph La Porte’s Histoire littéraire des femmes françoises (1769). Hays’s critical and scholarly engagement with this work for her French entries, as well as with Pierre Bayle’s Dictionnaire historique et critique (1697), yields a complex map of cross-cultural transactions through its embedded layers of gendered peritextuality. The aim of this article is thus to explore the ways in which Thicknesse paved the way for Hays’s broader historiographical work, and to reflect on their convergences and divergences. There ensues a series of questions which will be addressed in the course of this analysis. For example, Hays did not include all the women found in Thicknesse’s dictionary: so which women did she omit, and can we surmise why? And when she cites Thicknesse’s entries, what type of editorial addition or correction does she insert? Finally, what does this tell us about Hays’s stance as a critic and editor dedicated to the cause of women, and about the revisionist vein of her historiographical enterprise?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-185
JournalWomen's Writing
Issue number2
Early online date23 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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