Circulating Gender in the Global Enlightenment: Ideas, Networks, Agencies (CIRGEN)


CIRGEN offers for the first time a transnational and transatlantic approach to the circulation of gender notions and identities in eighteenth-century Europe and its colonial territories, thus overcoming national or merely comparative approaches and firmly placing the Enlightenment in the Hispanic empire on the map.

CIRGEN’s main goal is to examine transfers in the areas of translation, sociability, travel, reading and the culture of sensibility, from an actor-centered perspective that emphasizes individual and collective agency and explores from a critical angle the complex legacy of the Enlightenment (mostly particularly of the so-called “Catholic Enlightenment”).

We propose novel approaches to this field:

  • We put the stress on circularity, multiple connections (and also different disconnections and temporalities), a perspective that, although usual in other areas, has not been practically applied to the study of discourses on gender.
  • We study those connections in not only a European, but also in a transatlantic context, taking as reference and starting point the Hispanic empire in order to overcome the Anglo centric bias often adopted by “global” or “Atlantic” histories.
  • We emphasize individual and collective agency, highlighting its role in the processes of sociocultural change.
  • We explore the complex legacy of the Enlightenment to modernity, in particular to such questioned forms of modernity as those of the so-called “Catholic Enlightenment”, specifically in the Hispanic world.

From these premises, we analyze the cultural transfer of notions of gender around five axes: translation, sociability and networks, travel, reading and sensibility, using a combination of archival research and both text and image analyses.

CIRGEN’s specific objetives

CIRGEN’s specific objectives are to challenge dichotomous visions of Enlightenment discourses of gender by stressing their plural (and often conflictive) contribution to modernity; decenter customary radial perspectives by stressing multilateral dialogues both within Europe and beyond; better understand the role played by gender in the cultural geography of Enlightenment, particularly in the construction of the South/North symbolic divide; produce empirically grounded evidence of the practical and iconic role of women in the making of modern reading publics; foster innovative scholarship on the gendering of emotions in defining national identities and moral standards of civilization.

Main research lines

( { · } )
Translating Gender Gendered networks and connections Travel and the gendered geographies of Enlightenment The woman reader and the making of modern publics Gendering sensibility: between universalism and national identity
In the field of translation, an intellectual and cultural practice that was booming in the 18th century, we will study the role of women as translators (and, more broadly, the role played by the translator’s / author’s gender) in the election of works to translate and in the version that was made of them. ({·}) On the other hand, we will consider the impact translations had on the controversies about the nature and education of women, and how the awareness of a global debate could influence the discussions in different countries. ({·}) We will create and exploit a database of translations of works focused on gender controversy (“querelle des femmes”) in the Hispanic empire and their connections with other published elsewhere in Europe and America ({·})
In the area of networks and relations, we are interested in studying how the discussions and practices of admission and exclusion of women in reforming academies and societies in different countries were connected and influenced each other: how the circulation of information and images could help open or guide the debates or stimulate the intellectual and social initiative of women in other territories ({·}) We will also explore the mediating role of women in other types of social networks, such as diplomatic or epistolary ({·})
This research line will approach travel narratives to try to understand how gender and nation-building intertwined during the 18th century in the production of stereotypes about “national characters”, which not only tended to reinforce previous judgments, but also interrogated more openly the scope and origin of cultural differences. The Hispanic case is particularly relevant because of its paradoxical condition as a huge colonial empire, which became both a picturesque destination for visitors from the North and a point of origin for travelers who traveled the world struggling between adherence to cosmopolitanism and national vindication. ({·}) We are particularly interested in analyzing the cultural construction of Southern Europe in the accounts of trips to Spain, the Italian territories and Portugal, and the views of Peninsular travelers on the American territories ({·})We will study both the real and symbolic roles of women in the construction of new readerships in Europe and America ({·}) We will analyze how the woman reader could act as a metonymy that symbolized the new general, rather than scholar or specialist public. ({·}) We are especially interested in exploring how the category of “literature for women” was constructed: what kind of works were considered as addressed or suitable for a female audience?, who labeled them as such?, how the identification of some works or specific literacy genres with a female audience could differ when the former were translated, versioned or marketed in different cultural, religious and linguistic settings? ({·}) We are also interested in contrasting the way in which a female audience was represented and moralized with actual women’s reading habits ({·})
Last, but not least, we aim to study the 18th century culture of sensibility, trying to identify its potential territorial specificities. On the basis that sensibility was defined in the 18th century as a quality not specifically feminine, but feminized, or rather constructed differently for both sexes, we will explore the tensions between the progressive feminization of sensibility and its supposed universal condition, as well as the role it played in judgments about civilization and the progress of societies ({·})

Project’s main milestones

Copyright © 2019 CIRGEN
Funded by: Horizon 2020/ERC-2017-Advanced Grant-787015
cirgen@uv.es | @CIRGEN1