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Adventures in Writing, Reading & Book Culture

International Women’s Day special: Conversation

A few years ago I read “The Age of Conversation”, Benedetta Craveri’s nonfiction exposé on where & when the advent of the “society” salon came about. It took a hundred years or more to fully develop — and to expand across Europe and the American colonies — but its intent, to promote good manners and polite conversation on all possible topics (without remonstrance or rancor), was all promulgated by French women of society. Why women? Well, according to Craveri, men were too busy making money or conducting the business of state or waging one minor battle/war or another, that the women, left home and alone and without much to do, got themselves together and talked about affairs of home, heart, and state.

Well, why not?


february 1, 2007

“There remained the problem of what to say. Women’s learning was limited, and any personalization in discussion was considered dangerous. It was essential to avoid drawing attention to oneself, since individual identity depended primarily on social identity and every word could be treacherous: ‘Whatsoever the distinction, it attracts the attention of men; their interest engenders talk, and such talk, whether advantageous or disagreeable, flatters or tickles the vanity, thus giving rise to temptations capable of leading to various mistakes.’”

– Benedetta Craveri, “The Age of Conversation”

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