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Love, Power, and Gender in Seventeenth-Century French Fairy Tales

Bronwyn Reddan

REDDAN Bronwyn, Love, Power, and Gender in Seventeenth-Century French Fairy Tales, Women and Gender in the Early Modern World Series, University of Nebraska Press, 2020.
ISBN : 978-1-4962-1615-1

Love is a key ingredient in the stereotypical fairy-tale ending in which everyone lives happily ever after. This romantic formula continues to influence contemporary ideas about love and marriage, but it ignores the history of love as an emotion that shapes and is shaped by hierarchies of power including gender, class, education, and social status. This interdisciplinary study questions the idealization of love as the ultimate happy ending by showing how the conteuses, the women writers who dominated the first French fairy-tale vogue in the 1690s, used the fairy-tale genre to critique the power dynamics of courtship and marriage. Their tales do not sit comfortably in the fairy-tale canon as they explore the good, the bad, and the ugly effects of love and marriage on the lives of their heroines.

Bronwyn Reddan argues that the conteuses’ scripts for love emphasize the importance of gender in determining the “right” way to love in seventeenth-century France. Their version of fairy-tale love is historical and contingent rather than universal and timeless. This conversation about love compels revision of the happily-ever-after narrative and offers incisive commentary on the gendered scripts for the performance of love in courtship and marriage in seventeenth-century France.

Table des matières

List of Illustrations
List of Tables
Note on Sources and Translations
Introduction : Reimagining Fairy-Tale Love
Part 1. Formation of a Literary Emotional Community
1. The Creation of a Female Literary Community
2. A Shared Vocabulary of Love
Part 2. Conversations about Love
3. Courtship, Consent, and Declarations of Love
4. Marriage, Gift-Giving, and the Obligation of Love
5. Love after Marriage : Moral Lessons and Unhappy Endings
Conclusion : Truth Finding in Fairy Tales
Appendix 1 : French Fairy Tales, 1690–1709
Appendix 2 : Tales Produced by the Conteuses, 1690–1709
Appendix 3 : Publication Details of the First Known Editions of the Conteuses’ Tales
Appendix 4 : Publication Details of Literary Works by the Conteuses
Appendix 5 : Declarations of Love by Heroes
Appendix 6 : Declarations of Love by Heroines

Bronwyn Reddan is an honorary fellow in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne