The Risky Business of French Feminism

The Risky Business of French Feminism : Publishing, Politics, and Artistry

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The Risky Business of French Feminism: Publishing, Politics, and Artistry examines the institutional history of the publishing house Editions des Femmes as well as its relationship to the French Women's Liberation Movement (MLF) from 1972 to the present. The founding and subsequent success of Editions des Femmes in the publishing milieu intensified the ideological divisions within the MLF and highlighted the extent to which that movement failed to adequately reflect on the power inherent in its recourse to print culture as an agent of change. In particular, Editions des Femmes produced several periodical publications and pioneered a woman-centered subculture that attached militant political meanings to the practice of buying and publishing books. While the MLF succeeded in changing legislation detrimental to women, it was not able to create unified cultural politics or construct a long-term media strategy that could preserve the movement's original ideals and unity. Jennifer L. Sweatman explores the long-term dissipation of the MLF as a unified force not only as an outcome of ideological disagreement, but also due to conflicting views on culture, women's creativity as a strategy for empowerment, and the utility of media for creating change. As the MLF fragmented, unable to fully come to terms with its various consumer identities, its need for capital to support creative projects, and its difficult experience with collective decision-making, the Editions des Femmes' project was seen as incredibly controversial. However, Editions des Femmes embodied a broader strategy for cultural transformation that privileged women's creative works rather than feminism, situating it as a successful forerunner of the revitalization of the publishing industry from below as small, independent houses challenged the large, media conglomerate control of the industry.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 226 pages
  • 149.86 x 231.14 x 20.32mm | 635.03g
  • Lexington Books
  • Lanham, MD, United States
  • English
  • 0739179659
  • 9780739179659

Review quote

The book is well written and organized. Furthermore, it is supported by thorough research in archives and private libraries, interviews, and literature about the house's activities...The author excels at disentangling the love hate relationship between the militant Fouque and principal leaders of the Mouvement de Liberation des Femmes (MLF)...This book's greatest contribution is its historical analysis of Edition des Femmes, and its role in material culture. It clearly demonstrates how it shaped women's coming into print in times of cultural and political changes as an artistic venue within which women writers and readers could find each other. Contemporary French Civilization Sweatman's study is an especially intriguing enterprise because she analyzes an aspect of twentieth-century French feminist activism that has remained shrouded in controversy, scandal, and debates: Antoinette Fouque's infamous initiative to copyright the acronym MLF (Mouvement de Libe'ration des Femmes, or Women's Liberation Movement) in 1979 to the dismay of most French feminist activists... The strength of Sweatman's study lies in the fact that it offers a measured account of a still controversial feminist group. By taking seriously the publishing house's aims and initiatives, it adds to our knowledge of the French second-wave feminist movement... Sweatman's focused study reminds us of the importance of revisiting the history of French second-wave feminism. American Historical Review Despite French feminism's huge impact on Humanities disciplines in the English-speaking world, it has, until now, been represented as an exclusively psychoanalytic and linguistic project. Jennifer L. Sweatman's The Risky Business of French Feminism is the first book to explore the materialist basis of French feminist literary culture. Its widely researched, publishing-focused, and non-partisan analysis fundamentally changes what we thought we knew about French feminism. -- Simone Murray, Monash Universityshow more

About Jennifer L. Sweatman

Jennifer L. Sweatman is assistant professor of history at Bridgewater College in Virginia.show more

Table of contents

Table of Contents Chapter One - Introduction: The Risky Politics of Editions des Femmes The Risky Politics of Editions des Femmes: The Female-Collective The Risky Vision of Editions des Femmes: Psychanalyse et Politique The Risky Editorial Policy of Editions des Femmes: Publishing Women Chapter Two- Freeing Words and Seizing Speech: The Emergence of Editions des Femmes Psychanalyse et Politique Power, Print, and the MLF in Public The Founding of Editions des Femmes Chapter Three- Public Visibility: The Success of Editions des Femmes' Editorial Policy MLF Causes and Editions des Femmes' Militant Catalog Building a Catalog, Branding an Author "Women's Writing": An Essentialist Catalog? The Political Risks of Publishing Success Chapter Four - Contested Collectives in Print: Editions des Femmes and Its Critics Contesting the Collective, or Who are "the Women"? Commercial Rivalry between Editions des Femmes and Editions Tierce Chapter Five -"The Desire to Perpetuate a Heritage": From Militancy to Commemoration in Editions des Femmes' Editorial Policy Book Business and the Risks of Militant Publishing New Fields of Struggle: Small Publishers and the Prix Unique A New Look: Revamping the "des Femmes" Image Protecting Writers: New Strategies for Building Solidarity Commemoration and Exceptional Women Conclusionshow more