Women Who Read Are Dangerous, by Stefan Bollmann — A Review – Austenprose

From the desk of Tracy Hickman: 

When you web page by Girls Who Learn Are Harmful in search of visible representations that most individuals affiliate with hazard, you may be confused initially. Not one of the ladies are brandishing weapons or committing violent acts. As an alternative, they sit quietly perusing books, pamphlets, magazines, hymnals, and letters. Some topics have been caught throughout a momentary pause of their studying, gazing again on the viewer or trying off to some far horizon of their creativeness. No matter their perspective, these ladies are self-contained, and their ideas stay non-public. May this be the hazard referenced within the title? As a girl who reads, I used to be curious to seek out out.

The ahead written by Karen Pleasure Fowler, creator of the bestselling novel The Jane Austen Guide Membership, begins this exploration by contemplating the recognition of the topic of studying ladies for visible artists: 

“Given the restricted entry to literacy ladies have traditionally had, ladies readers would appear to be overrepresented within the visible arts. However the picture is an apparently sophisticated one. We, the viewers, are invited to enter visually, mentally, a spot we don’t occupy—a backyard, maybe, or a sunlit room—as a way to watch a girl who’s visually, mentally, in one other place. She may be time travelling—again to historic Rome, ahead to colonized Mars… 

She may be having bother concentrating, or she may be spellbound. She may be escaping from boredom right into a frothy romantic comedy. She may be studying a Russian novel, a Japanese, assuring herself that others have additionally had their troubles. She may be pitting her wits towards a world-famous detective. She would possibly simply want a great cry. Or she may be experiencing some transformation so profound that she is going to by no means be fairly the identical once more. On the very second we see her, the scales may be falling from her eyes… 

The girl reader is completely nonetheless, pinned into place and utterly unaware of us watching her. Concurrently, she has escaped us totally. In all probability it’s the voyeurism that pursuits some artists. For others, let’s hope it’s the escape.” (14)

Lady Studying, by Pieter Janssens Elinga (56)

Writer Stefan Bollmann’s introduction subsequent examines historic tendencies in studying, beginning with the event of the concept “studying ought to give us pleasure” which he factors out as being a comparatively new concept that grew to become mainstream within the eighteenth century. 

“When the trend for studying started to take maintain within the days of Chardin and Baudouin, first in Paris, then in different components of the world, everybody, notably ladies, carried a ebook in his or her pocket. This phenomenon, so disturbing to some contemporaries, quickly gained supporters in addition to critics. The previous inspired “helpful” studying, which might channel “studying mania,” because it was recognized, towards virtuous and academic supplies. Their conservative opponents noticed in unrestrained studying additional proof of the inexorable decline in manners and social order.” (23)

Woman Studying, by Lovis Corinth (95)

In a bit on “Silent Studying” Bollmann focuses on the alternatives for larger freedom that ladies gained by studying: 

“With the flexibility to learn, nevertheless, there developed new patterns of personal habits that have been to threaten the legitimacy of each the Church and secular authorities on a everlasting foundation. Girls who discovered to learn at the moment have been thought of harmful. For the lady who reads acquires an area to which she and nobody else has entry, and along with this she develops an unbiased sense of vanity; moreover, she creates her personal view of the world that doesn’t essentially correspond with that conveyed by custom, or with that of males. All this doesn’t but signify the liberation of ladies from patriarchal guardianship, but it surely does push open the door that results in freedom.” (26)

Rose Backyard (The Artist’s Spouse within the Backyard at Skagen), by Peder Severin Kroyer (102)

Bollmann concludes the introduction by explaining that the gallery of pictures he has chosen are supposed to operate as a digital museum, permitting readers to walk round, making connections, as they leaf again and ahead by the pages. He notes that his brief commentaries on the photographs are supposed to assist the tour. The sections that observe concentrate on topics by theme: “The place the Phrase Lives: Blessed Readers,” “Intimate Moments: Enchanted Readers,” “Abodes of Pleasure: Self-Assured Readers,” “Hours of Delight: Sentimental Readers,” “The Seek for Oneself: Passionate Readers,” and “Little Escapes: Solitary Readers” The ebook concludes with image credit for every picture.

The Magic Grammar, by Jessie Marion King (108)

Whether or not you have an interest in literary criticism and artwork principle or have little curiosity in these topics however get pleasure from gorgeous artistic endeavors, Stefan Bollmann’s ebook delivers a digital museum tour devoted to pictures of ladies readers that delights and informs. The creator’s commentaries embrace historic and biographical data of artists and topics that add which means to the work, prints, drawings, and pictures. One or two of the extra subjective interpretations did fall brief for me, because the creator contradicted certainly one of his factors made within the introduction, specifically that the inside states of the ladies readers portrayed stay unknowable. I want to imagine that every viewer is free to type their very own interpretation, simply as ladies who learn are free to assume and dream as they select.

Younger Lady with Guide, by Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Deineka (141)

Girls Who Learn Are Harmful combines attractive coloration pictures with compelling concepts in regards to the position of studying in ladies’s lives. I’ll return to browse its pages time and again and might advocate it as a superb present for a particular pal or member of the family. Stefan Bollmann’s considerate curation of pictures—works relationship from the Center Ages to the 20th century with many chosen from smaller European museums and personal collections—creates a visible expertise that retains its freshness whereas inspecting an exercise acquainted to each reader, whether or not they take into account themselves harmful or not.

5 out of 5 Stars


  • Girls Who Learn Are Harmful, by Stefan Bollmann, foreword by Karen Pleasure Fowler
  • Abbeville Press (March 15, 2016)
  • Hardcover (156) pages
  • ISBN: 978-0789212566
  • Style: Literary Criticism, Artwork Historical past


We acquired a overview copy of the ebook from the writer in trade for an sincere overview. Austenprose is an Amazon affiliate. Cowl and pictures courtesy of Abbeville Press © 2016; textual content Tracy Hickman © 2016, austenprose.com.