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Historiography, Objectivity, and the Case of the Abusive Widow

Bonnie Smith
History and Theory
Vol. 31, No. 4, Beiheft 31: History and Feminist Theory (Dec., 1992), pp. 15-32
Published by: Wiley for Wesleyan University
DOI: 10.2307/2505413
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2505413
Page Count: 18
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Historiography, Objectivity, and the Case of the Abusive Widow
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Abstract

For the past century French intellectuals have increasingly censured Athenais Michelet as an "abusive widow" who mutilated the work of her husband. This article explores the role such censure, often vituperative and emotionally charged, has played in the development of French historiography and argues that it has been crucial in constructing the revered figure of Michelet. Further, the figure of Michelet is itself central to the more important trajectory of historiography that depends on the establishment of "authors" as focal points of disciplinary power. Because the authorship of Michelet is so reliant on the scientific scholarship deployed to prove that Athenais Michelet was no author herself, the historiographic enterprise of establishing authorship is more than a little tainted with gender - not immune to it, as the profession claims to be. To the contrary, Michelet scholarship, like other historiographical debates, has taken great pains to establish the priority of the male over the female in writing history. If, as Howard Bloch has noted, this pointing to a male "original" and a female "copy" is the archetype of misogyny, then, the paper asks, is not scientific history so grounded?

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