Jules Vallès and Séverine

Romantic Socialism and the Afterlife of a Cross-Sex Friendship in French Political Culture, 1880–1929

in Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques
Michael Mulvey Saint Thomas University

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French political culture had a postrevolutionary tradition that considered gendered Ciceronian or fraternal friendship crucial to maintaining ideological movements across time inside the nation. The brief cross-sex friendship between Jules Vallès (1832–1885) and Séverine (neé Caroline Rémy, 1855–1929) has served as a biographical footnote to an 1871 Communard and a Dreyfusard journalist. This article frames the Vallès-Séverine social relation as a fraternal friendship that ideally secured Vallès’s political posterity and strategically empowered Séverine to publish opinions as a woman. Vallès self-consciously transferred his legacy of barricade-driven, romantic socialism to Séverine. Séverine, in turn, attempted to invoke Vallès’s heritage in an effort to protect her published opinions as a woman without civic rights. The Vallès-Séverine friendship was a paradoxical social relation that revealed how two historical actors subverted gender norms and the limits of a cross-sex fraternal friendship inside a liberalizing French political culture.

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