Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Cultivating Humanity; Isabelle de Charrière: Security of an Impossible Dream

Dr. Zoe Petropoulou.

Isabelle de Charrière’s “Letters of Mistriss Henley published by her friend” explores a young woman’s search for identity in a world of reason, of conventions and of alienation. Boundaries are threatening and constantly threatened by Mistriss Henley who does not feel at home neither in the private nor in the public domain, the domain of heart and of intricate individual relations. This novel puts at the centre of our attention not the importance of marriage but the importance of heart and understanding; not the importance of reason but the importance of sensitivity, not the primacy of conventions but the breaking of conventions. She is the rebel in her own way who says no to the choices made in this rigid society, she risks ostracism, impossibility to gain love and companionship, and to embrace the elusive goal at the heart of democracy: the right to choose.

Cultivating humanity is the main character’s search for identity for women that followed the French Revolution and shaped up the ideas of the centuries that followed.


Dr. Zoe Petropoulou  (United States)
Associate Professor in French
Department of Languages and Literatures
St. John's University

I am currently an Associate Professor of French at St. John’s University, U.S.A. I was born in Greece where I received my B. A in French from the University of Athens. I hold a Master’s from the University of Paris IV and a Ph.D. from the University of Paris III both in French Literature.

  • Gender
  • Feminism
  • Identity
  • Culture
  • Fiction
  • Humanity

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)