J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Saturday, February 10, 2018

“Rethinking Enlightenment” through Women’s Eyes

The Houghton Library at Harvard University has opened an exhibit titled “Rethinking Enlightenment: Forgotten Women Writers of Eighteenth-Century France.”

The library’s website explains:
The French Enlightenment is famous for its intellectual innovations, but it is remembered largely as a male endeavor. However, recent scholars have shown that French women were active in all genres, from novels to physics. Despite systemic sexism, these writers produced literary and academic works that were neglected in their own times as in ours.

“Rethinking Enlightenment” showcases Houghton Library’s remarkable holdings of texts by eighteenth-century French women. Beyond describing how these writers critiqued their society, the exhibition demonstrates their active participation in the philosophical and artistic development of modern France. For scholars of the Enlightenment to anyone interested in women’s history, it is a timely reminder of the forgotten figures in intellectual history.
The curator for this exhibition is Harvard undergraduate Caleb Shelburne. He worked as a research assistant for Christie McDonald, Smith Research Professor of French Language and Literature, as she wrote a long essay on eighteenth-century women writers that will appear in Femme, Littérature. Une histoire culturelle in 2019.

“Rethinking Enlightenment” will be open until 28 April in the library’s Amy Lowell Room. It is free to the public during library hours.

Also viewable at the Houghton Library until 14 April is an exhibit titled “Landmarks: Maps as Literary Illustration.” That “brings together over sixty landmark literary maps” of famous fictional places, from Utopia to Oz.

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