Germaine de Staël’s Réflexions sur le procès de la reine: An act of compassion?

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In the foreword to the Mercure de France edition of de Staël. (1996 [1793]. Réflexions sur le procès de la reine. Paris: Mercure de France), Chantal Thomas, French historian and writer, writes that this apology in favor of Marie-Antoinette did not help the queen nor the author herself; on the contrary it only made the latter more unpopular. So why did Germaine de Staël write it? Mme de Staël and Marie-Antoinette did not share many interests; however, at the moment of The Women’s March on Versailles in October 1789, the situation had changed. It was at this moment, when Mme de Staël witnessed people’s hatred for the Queen, that she for the first time felt that she was on her side. She had the feeling that the Queen would be a victim to a public opinion that had been “manipulated” (Thomas. 1996. Preface. In Réflexions sur le procès de la reine, 7–14. Paris: Mercure de France: 12) in a systematic way, and to which she herself had been a victim. Pursuing some ideas formulated by Reddy (2000, 2001) and (Nussbaum, Martha C. 2001. Upheavals of thought: The intelligence of emotions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.) in their work on emotion and empathy in history and philosophy respectively, I hope to offer some suggestions, with the aid of cultural semiotics. More specifically I hope to be able to provide some answers to the question whether Mme de Staël’s apology might be regarded as an act of compassion.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-52
Number of pages12
Issue number232
Early online date2020 Jan 11
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Feb 25

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Cultural Studies


  • cultural semiotics
  • Germaine de Staël
  • emotion
  • empathy
  • history


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