Examining literary discourses on female friendship and intimacy in seventeenth-century France, this study takes as its premise the view that, unlike men, women have been denied for centuries the possibility of same sex friendship. The author explores the effect of this homosocial and homopriviledged heritage on the deployment and constructions of female friendship and homoerotic relationships as thematic narratives in works by male and female writers in seventeenth-century France. The book consists of three parts: the first surveys the history of male thinkers' denial of female friendship, concluding with a synopsis of the cultural representations of female same-sex practices. The second analyzes female intimacy and homoerotism as imagined, appropriated and finally repudiated by Honoré d'Urfé's pastoral novel, L'Astrée, and Isaac de Benserade's seemingly lesbian-friendly comedy, Iphis et Iante. The third turns to unprecedented depictions of female intimate and homoerotic bonds in Madeleine de Scudéry's novel Mathilde and Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de La Force's fairy tale Plus Belle que Fée. This study reveals a female literary genealogy of intimacies between women in seventeenth-century France, and adds to the research in lesbian and queer studies, fields in which pre-eighteenth-century French literary texts are rare.
'Marianne Legault's new study makes a significant contribution to scholarship on early modern French women and early modern French sexuality. It is certainly the first book-length study devoted to intimacy among women in seventeenth-century France, and is a welcome addition to a field that has been largely neglected far too long.' Lewis Seifert, Brown University, USA ’The wealth of material in this book, and the way in which all the pieces of the argument fit together, make it well worth consulting for anyone interested in early modern women, sexuality, and friendship.’ Renaissance Quarterly 'This well-written and engaging study… makes a significant contribution to the growing critical literature on women’s writing in early modern Europe and to gender debates that remain alive today.' Barbara Woshinsky, University of Miami, USA 'With its careful attention to scholarship and contextualization of each work of literature within early modern literary history, this book would be a welcome addition to any library.' French Review