Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Committee Member

Gregory S. Brown

Second Committee Member

Elspeth Whitney

Third Committee Member

Paul Werth

Fourth Committee Member

Phil Hubbard

Fifth Committee Member

Kathryn H. Korgan

Number of Pages



Published in 1798 and 1800, the memoires of Hypolite Clairon and Marie-Françoise Marchand Dumesnil relate the experiences and values of individuals who lived through massive social and cultural, and eventually political, changes. How and when these two women felt the need to adhere to society's standards in comparison to those instances when they were confident enough to assert themselves illuminates the ways in which developing a public persona could open up a space for women to stretch the boundaries of feminine self-fashioning. This space was not unlimited and may have depended on actresses making concessions to societal expectations. It was nearly impossible to assert both feminine morality and professional knowledge simultaneously. Clairon and Dumesnil both diverged from society's expectations of actresses, the former by being too often in the spotlight off-stage, the other not often enough. Their acting styles correspondingly diverged, yet their popularity as performers remained comparable. The following comparison of two women in almost identical circumstances who nevertheless maintained starkly different views and priorities will reveal the possible paths open to actresses, but also their limitations.


Acting – Social aspects; Actresses; Autobiography; Clairon; Mlle.; 1723-1803; Dumesnil; Mlle (Marie-Françoise); 1713-1803; France


Acting | European History | History | Social History | Women's History

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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