Date of Award

2008

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Language

French

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

French

Advisor

Catherine Bauschatz

Second Committee Member

Raymond Pelletier

Third Committee Member

Kathryn Slott

Abstract

The fairy tale is an oral genre which became a literary genre towards the end of the 17th century, demonstrating an intense popularity and an abundant production during a relatively brief period, between 1691 and 1702. The fairy tales were told at first in the salons to entertain an audience of adults. The publication of the tales crafted orally followed these salon activities, creating a style much in vogue for about ten years. The majority of the authors were women. Of the men who produced fairy tales, Charles Perrault remains the most well-known today. His works have eclipsed even those of the women who created the genre. This study poses the question: why was there this brief and concentrated explosion of the vogue of fairy tales during this period? Did the tales have another purpose than to simply entertain an audience who had the leisure to appreciate them? In order to better understand the phenomenon, a brief historical overview of the classical century begins the study, concentrating on the development of the salons and the feminist agenda that took shape there. The feminine voice with its demands for freedom, for a more balanced social system, for women to be seen for their true worth, arises at certain times in history and retreats at others, according to the political situation. The 17th century, with two regencies, the Fronde, the "Querelle des Femmes" inherited from the Renaissance, and the absolutism of Louis XIV, experienced enormous fluctuations in the perception of women, changes in which the salons and the court played a role. Towards the last decade of the century, the feminist and anti-feminist polarity intensified, with a generation of women used to a certain freedom of expression who found themselves suddenly obliged to silence, faced with the absolutist policy of the monarchy and the phenomenon that accompanied it, known as "the great containment of women." This repression coincided with the sudden popularity of the fairy tale, as well as with another literary phenomenon, the "Quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns." If the latter is seen as an attack on the principle of authority, why not also the fairy tale? The salon women of the preceding generation raised their voices to celebrate love as a worthy emotion and as a civilizing force and to protest the injustices and inequalities inherent in marriage. By examining the themes of love and marriage in Mme d'Aulnoy's fairy tales and comparing them to those of Perrault, this study will show the connections between her writings and the feminist agenda which she inherited from the salons of the preceding generation. This agenda, towards the end of the 17th century, had experienced such official censorship that it had to find a disguised and "innocent" means of expression: the fairytale. Perrault, leader of the Modernes, was not a feminist. This comparison suggests, therefore, another quarrel, where the feminist voice of d'Aulnoy responds to the anti-feminism of Perrault: "The Quarrel of the Fairies."

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