'In Her Own Fashion': Marie de Gournay and the Fabrication of the Writer's Persona
AuthorRing Freeman, Wendy Lynn
Committee ChairLeibacher-Ouvrard, 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.
AbstractMarie de Gournay (1565-1645) was bold. Following a profound, epiphanic experience while reading Montaigne's Essais, she would turn the despair of a young woman, ambitiously seeking her own voice, into literary performances as part of a continuous exercise of staging herself. Indeed, she would fabricate for herself a mythic persona, a Virgo nobilis, in order to control her own destiny as an author, and as a literary, political and social commentator. She also had some very powerful friends and supporters. Following a prominent fifty-year career, though, she would virtually disappear from the French literary world. Shortly after her death, Gournay's work was erased behind the ridicule, parodies and mystification that had targeted her during her lifetime. Gournay would become counter-fashioned, her own myths turned against her. My intent in this study of Gournay's persona is to provide an example of the dynamics at work in subversive creations, specifically how the construct of Gournay evolved into what humanist Justus Lipsius had presaged as a novum monstrum.I propose to analyze the fabrication of her persona from two different perspectives: first of all, from the point of view of her own self-fashioning, how she appears as both author and character of her own creation, putting into flux the notions of copy - original and imitation - invention. Critical theories on reception, self-fashioning, mystification, originality and feminism will be used within the context of the development of politesse and the honnÃªte homme, in early modern France. Close study of the works of fiction in which her persona appears, only to be mocked, and an analysis of texts which praised her will then reveal how and why Gournay continues to suffer from the binds constructed during the seventeenth century after which she, and many other women writers, were no longer read. She was either scornfully dismissed, or simplified to the point of distortion out of the need to classify and explain a woman whose positions and actions rendered her a phenomenon in a patriarchal society where women were excluded from creating meaning for themselves.