Epistolary transvestism: (Re)visions of Heloise (17th-18th centuries).
AuthorArenberg, Nancy May.
Committee ChairLeibacher, Lise
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis dissertation analyzed the flourishing of imitative versions of Heloise and Abelard's love correspondence in France in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Current theoretical approaches on epistolarity, narratology, cultural and gender studies were applied to focus on the various transformations (rewriting, veiling, fragmenting) of Heloise's epistles as they fell into the hands of (mostly male) imitators. Close textual analysis was used to investigate how the multiple (re)visions of her epistolary discourse and persona over two hundred years may be indicative of, and have helped construct, ideological changes in expectation concerning the role of women. The introduction traced the historical evolution of the epistolary novel, and the genesis of the lovers' legend in the Classical Age. The medieval love correspondence was initially considered with an analysis of Heloise's dialogic discourse in which the passion is veiled in the palimpsest that is visible under the spiritual language. Particular emphasis was placed on the possibility that Abelard may have altered her epistles as he ignored her desire to see to her salvation. Yet, Abelard was not the only man to intervene in Heloise's epistles. Other subsequent authors practiced what Miller calls "pseudo-feminocentrism" or female impersonation, the technique by which a male author infringes in a "woman's" literary production. In the seventeenth century, many male authors committed a travesty as they invaded Heloise's missives. Grenaille was the first translator to reconstruct Heloise as "La Magdalene Francaise". After this penitent revision of Heloise's persona, Alluis and Bussy-Rabutin effaced her body and reinvented her as a seductive "precieuse". In the eighteenth-century verse translations, Pope and Colardeau also took over Heloise's site of writing, reconstructing her as irrational. But another Enlightenment translator, Louise de Keralio, attempted to repair the learned Heloise, and in the nineteenth century, another woman, under the pseudonym, Marc de Montifaud recovered the erotic body that had been covered by male revisionists before her. The study of these translations over the centuries has demonstrated that Heloise's missives became the site of an ideological "querelle des femmes", and an attempt at constructing "woman".
Degree ProgramFrench and Italian