Women in French Panel at SAMLA Conference (November 4-6, 2021)

deadline for submissions: 
June 30, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Women in French / South Atlantic Modern Language Association
contact email: 

This panel is one of five Women in French sessions at the 2021 South Atlantic Modern Language Association annual conference, taking place this year in Atlanta, Georgia from November 4-6.


Presenters must be current members of Women in French and the South Atlantic Modern Language Association.


From Socially Marginalized Women to Thriving Writers: Overcoming Class- and Gender Barriers through Literary Networking-Success Stories from Nineteenth-Century French Actresses


Zola’s novel Nana presents in typical naturalist manner a rather misogynist portrayal of a nineteenth-century variété theatre actress, who ascends from streetwalker to high-class courtesan, yet, remains destined to fail, because of hereditary and social determinants. The novel mirrors, to an extent, late nineteenth-century French society’s perception of actresses, whose amorous affairs were seen as a professional attribute that enabled these women to support their lifestyle, providing them with financial support and beneficial social relationships. Several contemporary actresses, who eventually embraced a journalistic or literary career, played with this cliché and used it for their own benefit, and that of other female stage performers, artists and writers. They parodied the existing gender-bias, frequently pursued a feminist agenda, all the while drawing on their seduction techniques acquired on and off stage. Roberts illustrated this convincingly in Disruptive Acts, her book about the former actress and future journalist Marguerite Durand, founder of the feminist newspaper La Fronde. Other examples might be Séverine or Marie Colombier; but they certainly were not the only ones. This panel seeks to look at (former) nineteenth-century actresses turned journalist/writers who were able to network successfully with female colleagues to strengthen each other’s careers, preventing a naturalist “fail.” Please send your 150-200 words paper proposal, contact information, and a 50-word biographical statement to Elisabeth-Christine Muelsch (emuelsch@angelo.edu)  by June 30, 2021.


Chair: Elisabeth-Christine Muelsch, Angelo State University emuelsch@angelo.edu