Are women trustworthy? Female figures in Pierre Bayle’s Dictionnaire historique et critique

Guest lecture and seminar with Dr Luisa Brotto (Florence).

The presentation will focus on how women are portrayed in the works of Pierre Bayle, and especially in his Dictionnaire historique et critique. My goal is to show whether, and under what conditions, women were conceived by Bayle as trustworthy individuals, namely as reliable agents in different social and political contexts.The writings of Piere Bayle are both an expression of his philosophical thought and an informed account of topics crucial to Early modern culture. Therefore, they constitute a vantage-point for inquiring Early modern conceptions of women’s identity and their social roles. Bayle’s Dictionnaire contains approximately fifty entries devoted to women, and female figures from Antiquity to the XVII century are taken into account. Although many entries are devoted to biblical and mythological figures, a conspicuous group portrays women who existed historically. Thus, Bayle’s analysis has two levels: he shows how women have been imagined (mostly by men), while also describing how they actually lived and acted.