Katherine Astbury, Associate Professor and Reader in French Studies at the University of Warwick has appeared on BBC Radio 4's In Our Time to discuss the life and impact of Germaine de Staël (1766-1817) who Byron praised as Europe's greatest living writer, and was at the heart of intellectual and literary life in the France of revolution and of Napoleon.
Writing about de Staël, Dr Astbury said:
"Madame de Staël was one of the intellectual heavyweights of the early 19th century. A liberal writer and thinker who actively engaged in politics during the early years of the Revolution, she developed a new aesthetic path for the French novel through two essays, on fiction and on literature, and two major novels, Delphine and Corinne.
- Click here to listen again or to download the podcast, including bonus material.
"She saw herself as a defender of liberty in opposition to Napoleon Bonaparte and their tussle over freedom of expression defined her career. Forced into exile by Napoleon, de Staël travelled widely to show that she wouldn’t be silenced and presented Britain, Germany and Italy as offering alternative artistic models to Napoleonic France. She thereby embodied both freedom of expression and the writer’s need to be engaged with society, refusing to allow inspiration to be constrained in any way by politics".
As well as attracting and inspiring others in her salon, she wrote novels, plays. literary criticism, political essays, and poems and developed the ideas behind Romanticism. She achieved this while regularly exiled from the Paris in which she was born, having fallen out with Napoleon who she opposed, becoming a towering figure in the history of European ideas.
16 November 2017
Tom Frew, Senior Press and Media Relations Manager – University of Warwick:
E: a dot t dot frew at warwick dot ac dot uk