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This volume deals with philosophical, scientific, and ideological images of women during the French Enlightenment, examining their emergence in the reflections of the philosophes, in Catholic morality, in biological and medical knowledge, in novels, in periodicals, and in the law.
Alongside the appeals for social and intellectual emancipation advanced by the femmes savantes, typical of the eighteenth-century salons, a new conception pertaining to women's social role related to the affirmation of the bourgeoisie and of its model of the family took place. Codified in a more complex and organized way within the Rousseauian philosophy, this new conception spread in various cultural debates, gaining a real hegemony: women were meant to be excluded from any "public" space, devoid of cultural aspirations, and only devoted to satisfying the needs of the family.
The book adopts a multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, and synthetic approach and at the same time highlights the "roots" of some fundamental ways of considering women that are still active in present-day society. It also addresses researchers in the history of philosophy, sociology, literature, and gender studies, and readers with an interest in women's issues.