Narratives of Female Dissolution

in French Classical Texts


Mary Jo Muratore

(University of Missouri-Columbia, USA)

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Expirer au féminin offers new perspectives on the complex relationship between neo-classical writers, their works, and the theoretical mandates imposed upon them.  In this work, the author argues that a writer’s conflicted attitude towards aesthetic conformity infiltrated the work itself.  This conflict can be seen in the confrontation between a male hero eager to comply with ideological protocols and a dissenting heroine in violation of established regulations.  It is to be expected, perhaps, that in the political context of seventeenth-century France, a heroine’s refusal to embrace orthodox opinions would result inevitably in her death, dissolution, or excision from the text.  What is unanticipated, however, is that writers would so often slant the readers’ sympathy in the direction of the rebellious heroine and against the obedient hero.

Expirer au féminin analyzes how the heroine’s ostensibly expedient death serves to further complicate the very situation it was intended to neutralize. Rendered essential by her presence, but quintessential by her absence, the heroine in these canonical texts embodies the non-permissible vision, the unspeakable other, the essence of alteration or alternation or alienation that is often seen as the antithesis of neo-classical textuality. In the re-readings proposed, the heroine’s rebelliousness reveals one of the most salient, yet least noted, characteristic of neo-classical textuality:  it does not, will not, cannot conform.  Beneath a surface of sameness and adherence, it proffers an unruly dismantling of codes, an untidy challenge to prescription, a poetically intoned ode to désobéissance.

    Mary Jo Muratore is Professor of French and Middlebush Chair of Romance Languages at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Her primary focus of research is seventeenth-century French literature, French dramatic theory, and metatextuality. Previous books include The Evolution of the Cornelian Heroine (Studia Humanitatis, 1982); Cornelian Theater: The Metadramatic Dimension (Summa, 1990); and Mimesis and Metatextuality in the French Neo-Classical text (Droz, 1994). She is currently working on a book length project provisionally entitled "Icons of the Outsider in Literature."

 ISBN  1-931948-14-3





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