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Literature - United States of America

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Moving forward, or Standing still? : Women Writers and the Railway in Nineteenth-Century France

Did the advent of the railway in the nineteenth century move women writers and artists forward, or did they stand still and hold back, as industrial modernity passed them by?

This book project on women’s artistic expression in nineteenth-century France analyzes how the railway expanded freedom of movement while imposing and exposing gendered norms on female travelers (in separate railway compartments for instance). The often violent and sexual connotations of the railway in the social imagination represented different challenges for creative women. Case studies of women writers including George Sand, Louisa Siefert, and Colette flesh out the relationships among mobility, gender, and writing by analyzing how locomotion threw feminine identities into flux. Fluid identities, dialectics of escape and confinement, multiplications of perspectives and relativity are reflected in the creative works analyzed.

Although nineteenth-century works by French women are often studied in relation to domestic interiors and emotional bonds, Boutin’s interdisciplinary project seeks to dispel images of women as bystanders of industrial modernity.

Activities / Resume


Aimée Boutin (PhD, Cornell University) has taught French and Francophone studies at Florida State University since 1998 and was promoted to full professor in 2015.

Her first book, Maternal Echoes: The Poetry of Marceline Desbordes-Valmore and Alphonse de Lamartine (University of Delaware Press, 2001) examined the representations of the mother’s voice in two French Romantic poets. She has worked extensively on the surge of women’s writing in the first half of the nineteenth century, and continues to publish on Desbordes-Valmore’s poetry and prose, notably editing Les Veillées des Antilles (1821; L’Harmattan, 2006). Her interests have extended to nineteenth century cultural history, especially sound studies, studying how literature incorporates the sounds of the past. In that light, she edited a special journal issue on “The Flâneur and the Senses” (2012) in Dix-Neuf and published the book City of Noise: Sound and Nineteenth-Century Paris (University of Illinois Press, 2015). She is also co-editing a special issue of Épistémocritique titled Quelles sources pour l’histoire des sens? with Érika Wicky and Corinne Doria. Her current research grows out of her work on gender and walking in the city and analyzes how women writers reacted to the railway’s simultaneous expansion of freedom of movement and imposition of gendered norms on female travelers.

In Lyon, she plans to collaborate with researchers in several interdisciplinary humanities labs, including the IHRIM, TRIANGLE, and the working group GERESSENS on the history of senses and sonic heritage.


  • Boutin, A. (2021). « La ville sonore : Quelles sources pour l’histoire du bruit urbain ? » In Aimée Boutin, Corinne Doria, and Érika Wicky, editors. Quelles sources pour l’histoire des sens? Special Issue of Épistémocritique (forthcoming).
  • Boutin, A. (2020) “The Sound Crack in Émile Zola’s La Bête Humaine.” Nineteenth-Century French Studies, vol. 49, no.1-2.
  • Boutin, A. (2020). “Historical Sounds: A Case Study.” In Michael Bull and Marcel A. Cobussen, Bloomsbury Handbook of Sonic Methodologies, Bloomsbury Academic Publishers, (forthcoming in late 2020).
  • Boutin, A., Frengs, J., and Leushuis, R. editors (2019). Selected Essays from the Women in French International Conference 2018 “Le Bruit des femmes,” Women In French Studies.
  • Boutin, A., & Bercegol, F. editors (2019). « Dossier. Marceline Desbordes-Valmore, prosatrice. » J'écris pourtant Bulletin de la Société Marceline Desbordes-Valmore.
  • Boutin, A. (2017). « La fille du train: La vagabonde et Notes de tournées de Colette. » French Review, 91.2, 62-73.
  • Boutin, A. (2016). “Roland Barthes's Grain of The Voice: From Mélodie To Media.” Romance Studies, 34. 3-4, 163-173. doi:
  • Boutin, A. (2015). City of Noise: Sound and Nineteenth-Century Paris. University of Illinois Press.
  • Boutin, A. M. (2014). « 'La comédie de la réhabilitation' ou la transparence et l'obstacle dans Isidora. » In Catherine Nesci, & Olivier Bara, editors, Writing, Performance and Theatricality in George Sand's Works. Proceedings of the Eighteenth International George Sand Conference. The University of California at Santa-Barbara, September 25-27, 2008. Grenoble: ELLUG.
  • Boutin, A. M. (2012). “Introduction: The Flâneur and the Senses.” Dix-Neuf: Journal of the Society of Dix-Neuviémistes, 16.2, 124-32.
  • Boutin, A. (2001). Maternal Echoes: The Poetry of Marceline Desbordes-Valmore and Alphonse de Lamartine. U of Delaware P.