A Raindrop Unfallen: Innocence and Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint Pierre's 'Paul and Viriginia' (1788)

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Abstract

The following essay is a creative, and challenging, reflection upon key themes of this special issue. The essay brings Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint Pierre's tragic romance, Paul and Virginia (1788), into conversation with an artistic response, Julia Margaret Cameron's 1865 photograph. Paul and Virginia is the tale of two children on the idyllic Ile de France, whose love encodes an eroticised innocence. Cameron's rendition offers a visual re-imagining of the fairy tale. In her appreciation of text and image, Carol Mavor negotiates a space between critical and poetic writing. Mosaic-like in form, evocative fragments of prose, poetry and images, are brought together to reflect upon the elusive nature of seduction, desire and innocence—especially among women, mothers and children. This experimental work uses artistic expression to enable us to think differently about the Victorians' troubling legacy of eroticised innocence, and explores new ways to describe inner experience.

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Original languageEnglish
JournalWomen's History Review
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016

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