Two Tuesdays: February 20 and 27 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET Hybrid Online and In-Person Connecticut Ave. Condo Classroom
Lecture and Discussion. This live class will be recorded and available for later viewing.
Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1956) was already famous, the world over, as a novelist, philosopher, and feminist icon (as well as part of a quasi-legendary couple, partner of Jean-Paul Sartre), when she published the first volume of her autobiography, Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter, in 1958. But this book was in many ways a first, a pioneering work of women’s autobiography in France. Born in Paris in 1908 into a conservative, somewhat impoverished upper-class family, Beauvoir had to overcome many social conventions to become the “intellectual woman” she was known as. In this book she recounts her early childhood in the Belle Epoque, which was suddenly upended by the First World War, her adolescent years, and her university studies, at the end of which she met Sartre and made the famous “pact” with him that would endure for the rest of their lives. She also tells the story of her passionate friendship with another girl from a conservative Catholic family, Zaza, whose tragic story is a counterpoint to Beauvoir’s own story of liberation. (The young Beauvoir wrote a novel about her and Zaza, which was published posthumously only a few years ago: The Inseparables). We will devote two classes to discussing this important work, emphasizing Beauvoir’s own evolving sense of herself as a young girl, a woman, and a writer. Two Tuesdays: February 20 and 27 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET Hybrid Online and In-Person Connecticut Ave. Condo Classroom
Simone de Beauvoir, Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter [Mémoires d’une jeune fille rangée], 1958. (9780060825195)
Simone de Beauvoir, Inseparable [Les Inséparables]
Toril Moi, Simone de Beauvoir : The Making of an Intellectual Woman
Reading and Discussion Schedule:
February 20: Introduction, and Memoirs, Parts One and Two
February 27: Memoirs, Parts Three and Four
Note: If you know French, you may want to try dipping into the original version as well—readily available on e-readers.
Susan Rubin Suleiman was born in Budapest and emigrated to the U.S. as a child with her parents. She is a professor emerita of French and comparative literature at Harvard University, where she taught for more than 30 years before moving to the DC area in 2019. Her special interests and areas of expertise include the literature of World War II, literature and film of the Holocaust, questions of gender, and avant-garde literary and artistic movements (especially Dada and Surrealism). Among other works, she is the author of Risking Who One Is: Encounters with Contemporary Art and Literature, Crises of Memory and the Second World War, The Némirovsky Question: The Life, Death, and Legacy of a Jewish Writer in 20th-Century France, and the memoir Budapest Diary: In Search of the Motherbook. A second memoir, Daughter of History: Traces of an Immigrant Girlhood, was published in May 2023.
REFUND POLICY: Please note that we can issue class refunds up until seven (7) days before the first class session.