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Narrations déviantes : représentations littéraires de l’amitié féminine au XVIIe siècle en France Legault, Marianne


This study examines various literary discourses on the question of female friendship in Ancien Régime texts of both a philosophical and literary nature. It takes as its premise the view of many feminist thinkers, such as the philosopher Janice Raymond, who assert that, contrary to men, women have been denied same sex friendship for centuries. From this basis, I explore the effect of this homosocial and homopriviledged heritage on the deployment of female friendship as a thematical narrative in the works of both male and female writers in seventeenth-century France. In Part One, I give a broad historical and feminist overview of the absence of women in the context of friendship theory as developed and revered by a long tradition of male thinkers from Antiquity to the Renaissance. Examples taken from Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Pierre De Blois, and Montaigne all confirm an increasing pessimism in regards to the possibility of female friendship, a belief that culminates in Montaigne's essay "De l'amitié." I then look at seventeenth-century moralists such as Nicole, La Rochefoucauld, and La Bruyère who follow this tradition by perpetuating discourses that refuse female friendships and limit women to a hetero-relational existence. In Part Two, relying on feminist and lesbian studies approaches, I examine literary discourses on female friendship as constructed by the male imaginary in the seventeenth century. I analyse two comedies, Molière's "Les Précieuses ridicules" and Isaac de Benserade's "Iphis et Ianthe", as well as a pastoral novel, Honoré d'Urfé's "L'Astrée", and expose their collective fearful narratives in relation to women's intimate relationships, a fear that often hides under the more obvious narratorial phantasmes of women loving women. In Part Three, based on lesbian literary history and criticisms, I explore the realms of female friendship in women's fiction. First I look at Scudéry's life-long choice to clearly refuse the patriarchal insistence on the primacy of homosocial and heterorelational bonds by elaborating her own female-centered discourse. I then begin my exploration into women's intimate worlds by looking at homoerotic narratives in Scudéry's "Mathilde (d'Aguilar)" and La Force's "Plus Belle que Fée", two texts which, I argue, expand the erotic possibilities of female friendships.

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