Publish or Perish! Constance de Salm’s Identity Crisis and Unfulfilled Promise


This article focuses on a little-known text by Constance de Salm (1767–1845), an author of increasing interest to specialists in early nineteenth-century literature. It examines in particular the reasons why an ambitious woman of letters with a long-standing experience in Germany never finished (and published) a comparative study she intended to write: Des Allemands comparés aux Français dans leurs mœurs, leurs usages et leur vie intérieure et sociale. Her desire to introduce German society to the French competed with Salm's unwillingness to take risks. As she knew from the reception of Staël's ‘De l'Allemagne’, making generalizations about a society could easily be the source of controversial scrutiny. She refused to expose herself to the damaging effect this publication could have for her in her adoptive country. The availability of Salm's correspondence in an on line database has made possible a detailed analysis of her motivations and anxieties. A completed Des Allemands would have undoubtedly differed from Germaine de Staël's De l'Allemagne in scope and method, and the article concludes that its existence might have enabled Salm to join Staël among the female pioneers who brought German culture to the attention of the French in the early nineteenth century.


Languages, Literatures, and Cultures

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Taylor & Francis

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