Response Paper 8

Write [your] own response to the discussion: How does Flora Tristan’s style of writing motivate readers to want change.

One of the fundamental differences between Flora Tristan’s Utopian Feminist and the other texts we have read throughout the course, is her style of writing. Based on our class discussion, I realized how her style ultimately motivates us to want change in society. In other words, by observing and then reporting dismal conditions in society, she presents existing problems without suggesting how to solve them. More, Plato, and Rousseau all describe alternatives to the status quo in society, whereas Tristan simply describes the status quo with a point of view.

The class discussion kicked off with the question “How do the laws and social structures work together to affect women?” but it quickly developed its focus on how Tristan presents the laws and social structures. Fortunately, due to increased, valuable class participation, this was a rich discussion. I remember in, particular, when Dan suggested that Tristan incorporates bias from her point of view. Professor Watts responded by asserting all points of view have bias. I hope to substantiate this point by further explicating Promenades in London, the exact place in the text that was being discussed. In doing so, I hope to show further evidence of how Tristan’s style of presenting truly is a function of her point of view.

Writing amidst unfriendly English-French relations, one would not expect Tristan to offer a positive point of view of London. But while loyalty influences her biased view of London, the style in which she presents London is more reflective of her bias. It is also worth noting that Tristan is reporting her observations, not arguing (wherein she would be suggesting solutions). For example, Flora Tristan detests the civil and political status of women in England: “A woman can be sold in the market, and yet the legislative assembly refuses her entry to its sessions”. Tristan reports this condition, which highlights a paradox in English ideals. In turn, readers are sympathetic and are motivated to fix this unruly condition in society. I find it fascinating how she presents a problem by critiquing the existing conditions yet simultaneously does not suggest alternatives to this status quo. In effect, her reporting serves to motivate readers to want to resolve this problem.

Flora Tristan observes English society and reports its status quo, selectively. The selective nature of her style of writing exposes conditions in a format that leaves readers sympathetic to the subject of her writing. Additionally, I associate her style of writing with that of satire (or rather my understanding of satire), which is to say she reports conditions that we should be able to fix, but have not or cannot. The objectivity of her reporting combined with the subjectivity of her point of view creates a style of writing that motivates us to want change, regardless of whether or not we know the means to bring about such change. I walked away from the class discussion with this new insightful understanding.

Works Cited

Tristan, Flora. 1993. Utopian Feminist. Translated by Doris Beik and Beik Paul. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.