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Abstract

In his preface to the most recent edition of Ingénue Saxancour, ou La Femme séparée, Daniel Baruch raises Restif’s novel to the status of a “livre de combat que les féministes auraient dû depuis longtemps mettre à sa juste place, la première.” As an impassioned plea of a battered wife against her sadistic husband, La Femme séparée (1789) addresses the plight of women’s rights (or the lack thereof) at the end of the Old Regime before the Revolution allowed unhappy partners to avail themselves of divorce. However, in an age when the term “philosophical books” included both socio-political tracts and pornographic texts, Restif’s novel belongs to both genres, founding a discourse of liberation for women on the literary exploitation of one woman’s story in an exploration of pain and punishment reminiscent of the works of the Marquis de Sade.

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