Physiological fictions and the fin-de-siecle female brain

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Author: Michael R. Finn
Date: Spring-Summer 2011
From: Nineteenth-Century French Studies(Vol. 39, Issue 3-4)
Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
Document Type: Essay
Length: 6,971 words
Lexile Measure: 1520L

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Abstract :

An important area of French medical research in the first half of the nineteenth-century was the supposedly anomalous, sensation-based functioning of the femme brain (Drs. Voisin, Virey, Brachet, Briquet). This paper explores the late-century resurgence of such theory around the question of whether women could support an intense advanced education. It examines the conflicted attitudes of four females, the novelists Rachilde, Georges de Peyrebrune and Daniel Lesuer, and a medical doctor, Georgette Dega, as they tried to resist or rationalize the dogma that saw the female as a mentally diminished male. The juxtaposition of medical and fictional texts demonstrates that the so-called "automatic" functioning of the female brain led to her being embodied, int he male mind, as a symbol of the dreaded unconscious. (MRF)

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A262494930