Gisèle d'Estoc was the pseudonym of a nineteenth-century French
woman writer and, it turns out, artist who, among other things, was
accused of being a bomb-planting anarchist, the cross-dressing
lover of writer Guy de Maupassant, and the fighter of at least one
duel with another woman, inspiring Bayard's famous painting on the
subject. The true identity of this enigmatic woman remained unknown
and was even considered fictional until recently, when Melanie C.
Hawthorne resurrected d'Estoc's discarded story from the annals of
forgotten history.Finding the Woman Who Didn't Exist begins with
the claim by expert literary historians of France on the eve of
World War II that the woman then known only as Gisèle d'Estoc was
merely a hoax. More than fifty years later, Hawthorne not only
proves that she did exist but also uncovers details about her
fascinating life and career, along the way adding to our
understanding of nineteenth-century France, literary culture, and
gender identity. Hawthorne explores the intriguing life of the real
d'Estoc, explaining why others came to doubt the "experts" and
following the threads of evidence that the latter overlooked. In
focusing on how narratives are shaped for particular audiences at
particular times, Hawthorne also tells "the story of the story,"
which reveals how the habits of thought fostered by the humanities
continue to matter beyond the halls of academe.