Michael J. Call


Sophie Cottin's story, little known to modem readers on either side of the Atlantic, may nevertheless be a perfect case study in gender role conflict and a woman's coming to writing in post-revolutionary France. Out of her struggle to reconcile Rousseauian notions of femininity and the realities of her own infertility arose a novel, Claire d'Albe (1799), condemned by at least one prominent female contemporary for its "immoralité révoltante." The novel inscribed both Cottin's anguish as a barren woman in a pronatalistic culture which valorized women according to their fertility and productivity, and the difficulty she faced in constructing a counter-identity for herself and women like her.