The Gentle Art of Persuasion: Ethical Aesthetics and Themes of Liberty and Nationalism in Germaine de Staël’s Corinne and Political Propaganda during the Napoleonic Wars

By Sharon Worley.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

During the Napoleonic Wars, an important group of women authors and salon hostesses emerged. They were educated in the Enlightenment ideals and appreciated the new Romantic style in art and literature. Their activities represent a new political activism for women who took a stand on the issue of political liberty in contrast with the imperialism of Napoleon. They used literature and art as a means of patriotic social propaganda that reinforced their goal of defeating Napoleonic hegemony. Members of the aristocracy, or closely associated with them through the forum of the salon, their contribution is all the more remarkable in creating a new orientation for social and political change. Through the salon, they actively advocated an end to the empire, and promoted literary archetypes in art and the novel as contemporary social role models for emulation, and the end of Napoleonic tyranny. By focusing on the forum of the salon as a political entity in which contact was facilitated between French, German and Italian salons, the common goals of political freedom and liberty emerge among participants. My scholarship emphasizes these common goals held by these women, and their literary activism in the context of the political transition from the Revolution to Empire, and resulting Wars of Liberation, through the styles of Neoclassicism and Romanticism. Political propaganda was based on literary archetypes of heroes and heroines as contemporary role models for social change, and implemented through existing models of aesthetics and semiotics. My semiotic interpretation builds on the research on the French Revolution by Lynn Hunt and Joan Landes, and identifies a systematic semiotic approach to Romantic literary heroic archetypes as a propaganda program designed to rally support for the Wars of Liberation in Germany.

Keywords: Napoleon, Germaine de Stael, Stephanie Genlis, Louise Stolberg, Dorothea Schlegel, Regina Frohberg (Rebecca Friedlander), Neoclassicism, Romanticism, Salon, Literature, Art, Political Propaganda

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp.175-182. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 576.695KB).

Dr. Sharon Worley

Visiting Asst. Professor, English Dept, University of St. Thomas, Houston, Texas, USA

I received my Ph.D. in Aesthetics-Humanities from the University of Texas at Dallas and my MA in Art History from Tufts University. I teach English, Art History and Humanities at colleges in Houston. I am the former curator of the Cape Ann Historical Museum in Gloucester, MA. My area of research is political propaganda, women, literature and art in the 18th and 19th centuries.


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