Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Critics often focus on how ambitious French women who were â€œexceptions to the rule of genderâ€ disrupted egalitarian political structures that appeared after 1789. GeneviÃ¨ve Fraisse, for instance, theorizes that exceptional women in egalitarian systems such as democracies/republics pose a threat to patriarchal social order. In theory, all women in political circumstances such as these have the â€œrightâ€ to imitate the exceptional woman. The fear in â€œegalitarianâ€ patriarchal societies is that all women might emulate the ambitious women who aspire to cultural echelons usually reserved for men. In a hierarchical regime, such as the ancien rÃ©gime, exceptions are a normal, and at times celebrated, part of society. However, this does not imply that ancien rÃ©gime women did not face adversity like ambitious women who appeared later in history. Indeed, the significance of the exceptional ancien rÃ©gime woman has been largely ignored. My analysis fills this void by examining the early French woman writerâ€™s importance as an exception to the rule of gender. Detailed analyses of ancien rÃ©gime womenâ€™s texts reveal that exceptional women were indeed problematic in this era. Additionally, the personal experience of each writer, as evidenced through her works, illustrates that exceptional ancien rÃ©gime women deftly negotiated social and political obstacles by writing publicly. This study focuses on the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries and examines the lives and writings of Christine de Pizan (1364-1430), Jeanne dâ€™Albret (1528-1572), and Marie Catherine Desjardins, also known as Madame de Villedieu (1640-1679. Comparing their life experiences reveals that in the case of these women, destabilized family structures ultimately led to an opportunity for public engagement through writing. Left on their own as widows, Pizan, Albret, and Villedieu wrote to maintain their autonomy. They subtly challenged social structures that limited women, while recasting their own images in writing. Ultimately, their choice to write allowed them to achieve subjectivity in their lives and works.
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Knox, Lori Anne, "Exceptions to the Rule of Gender: Ambition, Writing, and Subjectivity in Christine de Pizan, Jeanne d'Albret and Marie-Catherine Desjardins de Villedieu" (2007). LSU Doctoral Dissertations. 3747.
Katharine A. Jensen