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In the Spotlight: George Sand, b. 1804

Amantine Lucile Dudevant, known best by her pseudonym George Sand, was a French romantic novelist and artist.

A member of an affluent family, she was raised in Nohant, near la Châtre in Berry, the country home of her grandmother. Throughout her childhood, she gained a passionate love and appreciation of the countryside around which much of her literature revolves, thus gaining repute for its romantic and rustic qualities.

La Mere au Diable (1846), François le Champi (1848), and La Petite Fadette (1849), arguably some of Sand’s most renowned works, feature the theme of love transcending the obstacles of convention and class against the backdrop of her favourite Berry countryside. 

(Photo credit: Auguste Charpentier, 1838)

George Sand married Baron Casimir Dudevant in 1822 but quickly grew tired of married life. She is known for her various love affairs with high-profile Frenchmen, including Prosper Mérimée, Alfred de Musset, and Frédéric Chopin. Although she remained impervious to Musset’s sceptical views and Chopin’s aristocratic prejudices, many of the men she affiliated with were to influence her literature.

George Sand saw herself as a victim of the Borgeoise lifestyle, and decided to break conventions by living independently of men following her failed relationships. She was to adopt her pseudonym because she shared her name with her husband and desired independence; a masculine pseudonym also meant she could be taken seriously in the public sphere, under male scrutiny.

Sand is regarded a feminist as she saw her worth, namely intellectual, on par with a man’s, and this transcended into her vision of what was to be a woman’s place in society. Nonetheless, she did not seem to believe in androgyny; Sand maintained that men and women should not share societal responsibilities, arguing that the social structure in France had to be preserved.

Although Sand revolted personally against ardent feminism, it features in her texts abundantly: Lélia is the novel that springs to mind. It revolves around an uncommonly independent woman who comes to a point where neither celibacy nor passion fulfill her desires. George Sand poses the question of a female writer who pretends to be male as to advantage her writing, however, in many ways she adopted a masculine discourse, and thus manifests the political injustices women were subjected to in 19th century France. 

(Featured photo credit: Nadar)

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