Going Public: Women and Publishing in Early Modern France

By Dena Goodman; Elizabeth C. Goldsmith | Go to book overview

8
Les Fées Modernes: Women, Fairy
Tales, and the Literary Field in
Late Seventeenth-Century France

LEWIS C. SEIFERT

The final decades of Louis XIV's reign witnessed the birth of a curious literary phenomenon as fashionable adults avidly told, wrote, and read stories ostensibly based on folktales they had heard as children from their nurses and governesses. From 1690 to 1715 more than one hundred literary fairy tales (contes de fées) were published in France. 1 Besides giving birth to the French literary fairy tale, this "vogue" (or mode, as it was called) was also significant as one of the rare instances of a literary movement dominated by women writers. 2 Not only were two thirds of the contes de fées published by women, but the vogue itself, from all appearances, was inaugurated by the conteuses (female fairy-tale writers), who were then followed by several conteurs (male fairy-tale writers). 3 This pre-

____________________
1
Literary fairy tales remained popular in eighteenth-century France. Almost 150 were published between 1722 and 1778. The pioneering study of the conte de fées, although devoted exclusively to the earlier period, is Mary-Elizabeth Storer, Un Episode littéraire de la fin du XVlle siècle: La Mode des contes de fées (1685-1700) ( 1928; rpt., Geneva: Slatkine Reprints, 1972). See also Jacques Barchilon, Le Conte merveilleux français de 1690 à 1790: Cent ans de féerie et de poésie ignorées de l'histoire litteraire ( Paris: Honoré Champion, 1975); Raymonde Robert, Le Conte de fées littéraire en France de la fin du XVIIe à la fin du XVIIIe siècle ( Nancy: Presses Universitaires de Nancy, 1982); and Marc Soriano, Les Contes de Perrault: Culture savante et traditions populaires ( 1968; rpt. Paris: Gallimard, 1977).
2
This dominance contrasts sharply with the near-canonization of the tales by Charles Perrault and the virtual neglect of the other fairy-tale writers by literary historians and critics. For an overview of the numerous modern studies devoted to Perrault, see Claire-Lise Malarte, Perrault à travers la critique depuis 1960: Bibliographie annotée ( Paris: Papers on French Seventeenth-Century Literature, 1989).
3
Combined, the conteuses—Marie-Catherine d'Aulnoy (ca. 1650- 1705), Louise d'Auneuil (?—ca. 1700), Catherine Bernard ( 1662-1712), Catherine Bédacier Durand (ca. 1650—ca. 1715), Charlotte-Rose Caumont de La Force (ca. 1650-1724), Marie-Jeanne Lhéritier de Villandon ( 1664-1734), and Henriette-Julie de Murat ( 1670-1716)—published 74 of the 114 fairy tales that appeared between 1690 and 1715. Those of the conteurs—Jean-Paul

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