Restless agents of progress. Female editorship, salon sociability and modernisation in Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Greece (1860-1920)

Start - End 
2016 - 2020 (completed)



This dissertation sets out to explore the connection between women’s periodicals and literary salons in Southern Europe (1860-1920). Although existing studies have argued that the rise of the printed press overshadowed the power and influence of the salon in the public sphere, this thesis posits that their roles were closely intertwined.My main objective with this thesis is to show how women in Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Greece used their double role as editors and salonnièresin order to popularise salon culture, promote transnational exchanges, create communities of readers, and advocate for modernisation and social change. Chapter one discusses the rise and dissemination of a flourishing journalistic genre known as the salon chronicle. It argues that women became salon chroniclers first and editors of their own periodicals at a later stage. As chroniclers, they played a prominent role in defending salon culture. Chapter two explores the transnational implications of women’s editorial and salon activities. It contends that women editors built bridges of communication with their foreign counterparts through textual and interpersonal exchanges. Chapter three examines women’s mediating role betweensalon attendees and readers.It shows that through their editorial and salon activities,women encouraged the formation of Pro-Iberist and Pro-Mediterranean communities who shared a common cultural identity. Chapter four discusses women’s periodicals and salons as spaces of modernisation and progress.It argues that female editors and salonnièresadvocated for change by seeking to modernise the literary field and ensure a better education for women. On a methodological level, this thesis combines the close reading of articles and salon chronicles with contextual analysis pointing to the concrete circumstances of the founding of the periodical, the agents involved, and the ideological orientation of the contributors. In addition to periodicals, this thesis considers primary sources such as letters and diaries, which offer an insight into the editorial agenda, the personal conflicts, and the aspirations of the studied editors. The comparative method usedthroughout the research is the result of a systematic attempt to grasp, synthesise, and explore the amount of dialogues and exchanges that occurred among male and female editors, salon organisers, and salon attendees during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.To offer a better understanding of women’s roles in society, this study considers the oral culture of salons in tandem with the print culture of the time. It also places women’s activities in a transnational context andinvites us to view female editors as mediators between countries, cultures, and communities. By doing so, it challenges the peripheral position of Southern European women in national histories and literary canons.




Phd Student(s)