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Reading Groups

Transgressing Gender in the Nineteenth-Century French Novel with Lise Schreier (In Person Only)

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6 Sessions Tuesdays, 6:00 pm EDT - 7:30 pm EDT September 28 to December 21, 2021

The Center for Fiction*

The ‘With Books’ option includes all titles required for this group at a 15% discount.

Meeting Dates:
9/28, 10/12, 10/26, 11/9, 11/30, 12/21

What is a woman? In nineteenth-century France, writers, painters, doctors, and husbands tried to answer this question by defining women as morally, sexually, legally and politically different. And fundamentally dangerous. Their obsession with women, whom they adored, hated, and more than occasionally brutalized, defined their work and behavior. But many nineteenth-century French women fought back. Adulteresses, courtesans, hysterics, and bad mothers resisted the roles imposed upon them and embraced others. In this group, we will discuss how some of the most famous literary texts of the era promoted modesty, chastity, and charity, all the while displaying an obsession with prostitution and madness. We will also see how and why the cult of virtue that prevailed for most of the century was challenged during the Belle Epoque, when literature reflected both new ways of resisting reductive conceptions of femininity, and the anxiety associated with the birth of feminism.

*To attend this in-person reading group, please email your proof of vaccination to prior to visiting the Center. Mask wearing will be required throughout the building. Accepted vaccination proofs include:

  • an image of your CDC vaccination card
  • a screenshot or scanned printout of your Excelsior pass
  • a record of vaccination from the healthcare provider who gave you your vaccine

In compliance with developing guidelines issued by federal, state, and our local government, we ask that all visitors to The Center for Fiction’s member spaces provide proof of vaccination for COVID-19. If you remain unvaccinated because of a disability or sincerely held religious belief, please also contact us at for assistance or to request a reasonable accommodation. 


Led by

  • Lise schreier

    Dr. Lise-Ségolène Schreier

    Dr. Lise-Ségolène Schreier

    Dr. Lise-Ségolène Schreier is Professor of French and Comparative Literature at Fordham University. Her studies of gender, colonialism, material culture and cultural violence have drawn on diverse material such as nineteenth-century feminist newspapers, medical travelogues, fashion plates, children’s literature, vaudeville theater and early comics. Her current book project, Playthings of Empire: Child-gifting and the Politics of French Femininity, follows the changes in French textual and visual representations of African children used as gifts, pets and fashion accessories during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. She is the recipient of a Children’s Literature Association Diversity Grant, an American Philosophical Society Grant, and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship.