The Feminist Encyclopedia of French Literature

By Eva Martin Sartori; Colette H. Winn et al. | Go to book overview

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Palatine, Elisabeth-Charlotte von der Pfalz, later duchesse d'Orléans (known as Madame) ( 1652-1722). Bom in Heidelberg to the royal family of the Palatinate, she spent four of her happiest childhood years in Hanover with her dear Aunt Sophie (granddaughter of England's James I), to whom she would eventually write several thousand letters. The years at Hanover furnished Liselotte with treasured playmates, including William III, future king of England, and instilled in her a love of festivals, such as the Christkindl, and the hymns and Bible* of Luther. Her genuine faith and systematic daily reading of the German Bible throughout her life would bring her courage and tranquillity in spite of her marriage* to Philippe d'Orléans, Louis XIV's homosexual brother (called Monsieur), and her disappointment with the frivolities of the French court. Liselotte's father's ambition and Louis XIV's politics of expansion were the galvanizing factors behind her forced conversion to Catholicism and the marriage, described by biographer Dirk Van der Cruysse as a sacrifice on the altar of a Franco-Palatine alliance.

According to the conservative estimates of Van der Cruysse, Madame is the author of at least 60,000 letters, about half in French and half in German, with only one-tenth conserved, due to the custom of burning letters of the deceased. Her epistolary network extended to practically all the royal courts in Europe. These letters provide an exceptional mirror of a crucial period in early modern Europe. Because Madame intended her letters only for the eyes of her correspondents (although she knew that they were read by the cabinet noir, the postal censorship office), they possess an irresistible spontaneity and frankness, revealing her innermost self. Despite her comparison of herself to Molière's Monsieur Jourdain writing prose without knowing it, Liselotte scholars find an explicit literary self-awareness in the letters. They are filled with literary allusions and proverbs. The French letters sometimes contain German expressions,

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The Feminist Encyclopedia of French Literature
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Note x
  • A Feminist History of French Literature xi
  • Bibliography xv
  • Bibliography xx
  • Bibliography xxiii
  • Bibliography xxvi
  • Bibliography xxx
  • Bibliography xxxv
  • A 3
  • B 34
  • C 72
  • D 137
  • E 171
  • F 195
  • G 223
  • H 250
  • I 266
  • J 275
  • K 280
  • L 287
  • M 333
  • O 400
  • P 404
  • Q 447
  • R 451
  • S 483
  • T 524
  • V 542
  • W 554
  • Y 563
  • Appendix A: General Bibliography 567
  • Appendix B: Chronology of French Women Writers 573
  • Index 585
  • Contributors 631
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