Seminar | Madame de Staël
Seminar organized to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the death of Madame de Staël, novelist and essayist (1766-1817).
Programme (in French) and online registration: www.unesco.fr
The work of Madame de Staël enhanced intercultural dialogue between the peoples of Europe, while denouncing the authoritarianism of the Napoleonic Empire.
Born in 1766, Germaine de Staël was the daughter of Jacques Necker, a Protestant merchant who became the Finance Minister of Louis XV. Admitted as a young child to her mother’s literary salon, she grew up amidst the great minds of the time: Diderot, d’Alembert, Buffon, Grimm, Mably, Raynal and Bernardin de Saint-Pierre. In 1786, she married Baron Erik Magnus Staël von Holstein, Swedish Ambassador to France, and held her own salon, attended by La Fayette, Condorcet and Talleyrand. She began writing, particularly plays, and in 1788, a friend of her parents printed, without her knowing, 20 copies of her Letters on the works and character of J.J. Rousseau, which brought her renown. During the French Revolution, she received her literary friends at Château Coppet, where her salon became a centre of literary emulation. In 1793, she published Reflections on the Queen’s Trial, defending Queen Marie-Antoinette and the status of women, and in 1795, short stories preceded by an essay on fiction, which Goethe translated. In 1796, Madame de Staël published Influence of the Passions upon the Happiness of Individuals and of Nations, a moral treatise with political and autobiographical overtones, begun in 1792. On Literature Considered in its Relationship to Social Institutions (1800) is a comparative study of literature through different types of society and government. Madame de Staël defended the use of novels and drama for the education of the people and rehabilitated the Middle Ages and above all the Age of Enlightenment (eighteenth century), earning her the hostility of the First Consul, Napoleon Bonaparte. She was thus forced into exile. Her novels Delphine (1802) and Corinne (1807) met with great success. She travelled in Germany, and between 1808 and 1810 wrote about its history, literature and philosophy in a book entitled Germany. Napoleon had the book banned. She travelled in Europe and went to Russia, Sweden and England, inspiring an anti-Napoleonic policy. She wrote a last work, Considerations on the Principal Events of the French Revolution, and died suddenly at 51 years’ old in 1817.