Waelti-Walters, Jennifer (Rose) 1942-

views updated

WAELTI-WALTERS, Jennifer (Rose) 1942-

PERSONAL: Born March 13, 1942, in Wolverhampton, England; daughter of Thomas Gilbert (an electrician) and Joan Ellen (a shopkeeper; maiden name, Mills) Walters; married Frank Carl Waelti, December 30, 1972 (divorced, 1991). Education: University College, London, B.A. (with honors), 1964, Ph.D., 1968; Université de Lille, Licence-es-Lettres, 1965. Hobbies and other interests: Painting, singing, photography.

ADDRESSES: Home—1934 Crescent Rd., Victoria, British Columbia, Canada V8S 2H1. Office—Women's Studies Department, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada V8W 3P4.

CAREER: Goldsmith's College, London, lecturer, 1966-67; Sorbonne, Paris, France, lecturer in English, 1967-68; University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, 1968-97, began as assistant professor of French, became associate professor, professor of French, chair of French Department, 1979-84, professor of women's studies, 1979-97, director of women's studies, 1983-95, professor emerita of French and of women's studies, 1997—; writer.

MEMBER: Canadian Federation for the Humanities, Humanities Association of Canada, Canadian Association for Women's Studies, Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women, Association des professeurs de Français des universités et collèges Canadiens, Senior Women Academic Administrators of Canada.

AWARDS, HONORS: Publication award, Canadian Federation for the Humanities, 1977, for Michel Butor; Association des professeurs de Français des universités et collèges Canadiens (APFUCC) Prize, Best Book of Literary Criticism in French, 1989, for Jeanne Hyvrard.


Alchimie et litterature: Une étude de "Portrait de l'artiste en jeune singe," Dossiers des Lettres Nouvelles, Denoël (Paris, France), 1975.

J. M. G. Le Clézio, Twayne (Boston, MA), 1977.

Michel Butor: A Study of His View of the World and aPanorama of His Work, 1954-1974, Sono Nis Press (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada), 1977.

Icare, ou l'évasion impossible: Étude psycho-mythique de l'oeuvre de J. M. G. Le Clézio, Editions Naaman (Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada), 1981.

Fairy Tales and the Female Imagination, Eden Press (Montreal, Canada, and St. Albans, VT), 1982.

(With Maïr Verthuy-Williams) Jeanne Hyvrard, Rodopi (Amsterdam, Holland), 1988.

Jeanne Hyvrard: La Langue d'avenir, papers presented at a workshop of the 31st Congrès of the Association des professeurs de français des universités et collèges canadiens (APFUCC) in 1987, APFUCC (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada), 1988.

Feminist Novelists of the Belle Epoque: Love As aLifestyle, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1990.

(Editor, with Steven C. Hause) Feminisms of the BelleEpoque: A Historical and Literary Anthology, texts translated by Jette Kjaer, Lydia Willis, and Jennifer Waelti-Walters, University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 1994.

Jeanne Hyvrard: Theorist of the Modern World, Edinburgh University Press (Edinburgh, Scotland), 1996.

(Translator, with Jean-Pierre Mentha, and author of introduction) Jeanne Hyvrard, Jeune morte en robe de dentelle (title means "The Dead Girl in a Lace Dress"), Edinburgh University Press (Edinburgh, Scotland), 1996.

Damned Women: Lesbians in French Novels, 1796-1996, McGill-Queen's University Press (Montreal, Canada), 2000.

WORK IN PROGRESS: A second book on Michel Butor.

SIDELIGHTS: Canadian professor of French and women's studies Jennifer Waelti-Walters is perhaps best known for her writings about lesbians in literature, particularly in French novels. She has also won awards for books of literary criticism on authors Michel Butor and Jeanne Hyvrard.

Waelti-Walters's Damned Women: Lesbians in French Novels, 1796-1996, published in 2000, received mixed reviews. The book shows how lesbians were portrayed by male authors from Denis Diderot—whose character Suzanne in La Religieuse ("The Nun," 1796) was the first lesbian character in French novels—to Balzac, Gautier, and Proust. The author then covers the portrayal of lesbians by French women authors, including Adrienne Saint-Agen, Monique Wittig, Colette, Violette Leduc, Clarisse Françillon, Jocelyne François, Hélène de Monferrand, Liane de Pougy, Mireille Best, and many others.

The book's title is taken from a poem by Baudelaire in his book Les Fleurs du mal ("Flowers of Evil"), which raised a scandal when published in 1857. Waelti-Walters proposes in Damned Women that lesbians in French literature are given a lowly status throughout history. Male authors represented them as stereotypical at best and monstrous at worst, yet they remained within view because of the authors' popularity. When French women began writing about lesbians, their characters were more honestly portrayed, but the authors themselves, except for a few, had only a small following of readers. Julia Creet of Books in Canada wrote, "Oddly, some of the most valuable parts of the book do not fit Waelti-Walters' thesis very well." Creet used the author's comments about Diderot's La Religieuse as an example: Waelti-Walters wrote that the book is "remarkably modern" in its tolerance and understanding of circumstances that could set the stage for lesbian sexuality. Another male author, Guy de Maupassant, in his short story "La Femme de Paul" (1881), also deals with the subject in a compassionate way, according to Waelti-Walters.

Creet called Damned Women "an important, but unfortunately heavy-handed contribution to the fields of queer studies and French literature." However, she added that the author "does offer some astute analyses of the social factors that propel and impede lesbian literary love," such as the way young girls of the late 1800s were raised to exalt love in all forms. Creet was less pleased with Waelti-Walters's treatment of contemporary French novels, whose texts, she wrote, "attempted to lesbianize language itself, rather than the life of characters." Yet Creet praised the author's "wealth of historical information" and "sheer fun" of her plot synopses of the French novels.

Martha Stone of The Gay & Lesbian Review thought that Waelti-Walters "wears her academic mantle lightly" in Damned Women, resulting in "an incisive, readable history" of lesbian characters in French novels. She was pleased with Waelti-Walters's bibliography of French lesbian novels and the many French passages translated for English readers. Stone called the book "a thoughtful glimpse into a body of literature that deserves our attention."

A contributor to the McGill-Queen's University Press Web site wrote, Damned Women "tells a story of alienation, persecution, and isolation within a culture. It is a cultural and literary commentary full of new information, forgotten or little known authors, poignant surprises, and unexpected interrelationships."



Canadian Who's Who, Volume 35, 2000.

Directory of American Scholars, 10th edition, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2001.

International Authors and Writers Who's Who, 13th edition, consultant editor, M. J. Shields, International Biographical Centre (Cambridge, England), 1993.

Writers Directory 2001, 16th edition, edited by Miranda H. Ferrara, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2001.


Books in Canada, April, 2002, Julia Creet, "Charmeuses des femmes," review of Damned Women: Lesbians in French Novels, 1796-1996, p. 19.

Canadian Literature, spring, 1995, review of FeministNovelists of the Belle Epoque: Love As a Lifestyle, p. 171.

Christian Science Monitor, April 8, 1994, review of Feminisms of the Belle Epoque, p. 13.

French Review, February, 1998, review of JeanneHyvrard: Theorist of the Modern World, p. 479.

Gay & Lesbian Review and Gay & Lesbian ReviewWorldwide, March, 2001, Martha Stone, review of Damned Women, p. 38.

Library Journal, April 1, 1994, review of Feminisms of the Belle Epoque: A Historical and Literary Anthology, p. 97.

Modern Language Review, January, 1996, review of Feminisms of the Belle Epoque, p. 226.

World Literature Today, autumn, 1997, review of Jeanne Hyvrard: Theorist of the Modern World, p. 758.


McGill-Queen's University Press,http://www.mqup.mcgill.ca/ (June 17, 2002), review of Damned Women. *