Introductions: Christina Bezari
Along with my colleague Charlotte, I officially began to work on the project “Agents of Change” on the 1st of February. The cross-cultural character of periodicals published across Europe is what urged me to apply for the PhD research fellowship at Ghent University. As a translator, I have often studied the correlations among authors originating from different socio-cultural backgrounds. The practice of translation has been a great stimulus for me, because it has encouraged me to explore the common intellectual, aesthetic and cultural preoccupations capable of bringing together thinkers from different countries. The impact of women thinkers upon public dialog in modern Europe (1710-1920) is a goal of great significance to this project. First of all, because that impact has been neglected for a long time and secondly because the study of this impact can greatly enrich our understanding of transnational cultural relations as well as processes of female identity formation across Europe.
My personal contribution to this project is to study the exchanges among women editors in Spain, Italy, Portugal and Greece. During the research process, I intend to examine a corpus of periodicals used as primary sources, which will promote a comparative point of view on the subject. My goal is to prove the existence of significant convergences among women editors, writers and translators such as: Beatriz Cienfuegos (Spain), Elisabetta Caminer Turra (Italy), Maria Amália de Carvalho (Portugal), Kallirhoe Parren (Greece), Dora d’Istria (Romania). Studying the affinities among the spheres of interest of these writers is critical, since they all played a major role in tackling the predominant patriarchal model of the societies in which they lived. The highly interdisciplinary character of their periodicals constitutes a major axis in my research. Politics, science, literature and fashion co-existed in the pages of these periodicals. Each of these domains will be dealt with separately, giving way to a socio-cultural analysis.
At this point, it is important to underline that periodicals edited by women were far from being simple “feminised” spaces in which women limited themselves in order to have privacy. On the contrary, intellectual exchanges among women of different nationalities were intended to create a public arena where women had the possibility to openly express their views on a wide variety of controversial matters, such as the right to divorce or inherit land from their husbands. In this way, these early periodicals edited by women initiated an ever-growing shift in the traditional social and gender roles that prevailed on an international scale. This process which gradually took place in all Southern European countries will be closely examined and analyzed with careful scrutiny. Particular attention will be given to the fact that each country evolved with its own rhythms, despite the fact that a multitude of foreign influences were already present. For instance, equal access to education was a right defended by French feminists Marie Gouze and Sophie de Condorcet throughout the 18th century. However, it only came to be apparent in Greek and Portuguese female press at the end of the 19th century thanks to pioneer editors such as Euphrosyne Samartzidou and F. Maria Rodrigues. This proves that although social changes in France echoed in Southern European countries (but also in Latin-American colonies), it developed there at a completely different pace.
In view of all the possible similarities and discrepancies presented among the different geographical, national and cultural regions, the main goal of this research is to construct a diverse and ever-expanding Pan-European network of references concerning the active role that women played in bringing social and intellectual change. By taking into account both the transnational dimensions of women-edited periodicals and the non-negligible role of cultural difference, this project will help to shed light on their content, structure, and function. Last but not least, the originality of this research lies in its ability to propose new multifaceted approaches and data in order to prove the implicit connections which unite all European female editors in their quest for freedom of speech, equal rights for men and for women and autonomous construction of their identity.
My colleagues and I thank you for following the first steps of our research on our blog. We are looking forward to keeping you posted on the continuation of our project!