Des noeuds que l'amour ne rompt point'? Sisters and friendship in seventeenth-century French tragedy and tragi-comedy

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Title: Des noeuds que l'amour ne rompt point'? Sisters and friendship in seventeenth-century French tragedy and tragi-comedy
Authors: Conroy, Derval
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Date: Jun-2008
Online since: 2018-05-01T12:16:25Z
Abstract: This article grew out of a desire to investigate the commonly held theory that female friendship is under-represented in literature. Notwithstanding recent research (chiefly on nineteenth and twentieth century English-language fiction) which has nuanced Virginia Woolf’s famous lamentation of the absence of literary representations of female friends,1 the idea that female friendship is a rare literary phenomenon appears to persist.2 My theory was that its would-be rarity was due in no small part to the rarity of research concerning it: were we just not looking? More specifically, my interest lay in the representation of blood sisters, having come to this subject through the work of seventeenth-century female dramatist Catherine Bernard, and the representation of the sisters in Laodamie. Despite growing interest in familial relations in the early modern period, it remains a relatively unexplored area: to the best of my knowledge, no historical or literary study of early modern (blood) sisters has appeared to date.3 Now, if female friendship has been dismembered as Janice Raymond maintains,4 it is clear that blood sisters have been given even worse press. Despite the fact that the blood sister relationship has provided the model for non-kinship bonds of mutual affection and / or solidarity between women (in the commonly evoked notion of sisterhood),5 the dominant image of sisters in the myths and fairytales of Western literature (such as Cinderella or Psyché) is one of jealous arch-rivals, often with homicidal tendencies. Discounting comedies, my quest led me to eighteen plays (eight tragedies and ten tragi-comedies), where the relationship between the sisters varies on the one hand from bitter jealousy (usually experienced by one sister, to the blithe ignorance of the other) to, on the other hand, selfless devotion, where one sister would sacrifice her life for the other. Leaving the more common representation of sisters as jealous rivals aside – the ‘simplified, conventionalised’ representations of female relationships which Woolf bemoaned6 – the aim of this article is to examine a number of other models of sisterhood and of female friendship with which the dramatists provide us, and hence to analyse how sisterhood is configured in this element of early modern literature.
Type of material: Journal Article
Publisher: University of Washington
Journal: Papers on French Seventeenth Century Literature
Volume: 35
Issue: 69
Start page: 603
End page: 624
Keywords: Female friendshipLiterary representation
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Language: en
Status of Item: Peer reviewed
Appears in Collections:Languages, Cultures and Linguistics Research Collection

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