Arms and the Woman: War, Gender, and Literary Representation

By Helen M. Cooper; Adrienne Auslander Munich et al. | Go to book overview

Patricia Francis Cholakian


Rewriting History:
Madame de Villedieu and the Wars of Religion

It has been a commonplace of literature since Homer to blame women for causing wars. Such fictional histories appropriate women as pretexts, jealously guarding the text itself for the exploits of the hero. However, they contain the subversive idea that women's power shapes events. We may regard historical fiction, therefore, as the genre through which women take their place in history.

Les Désordres de l'amour, published in 1675 by the French novelist Madame de Villedieu, inscribes women into one of the most turbulent periods of history, the Wars of Religion, which devastated France in the second half of the sixteenth century. 1 It consists of three novellas, all of which deal with amorous intrigues in the court of Henri III. 2 Madame de Villedieu, 3 believed to be the first French woman to support herself by writing fiction, composed more than thirty works, of which Les Désordres de l'amour was the last. One of the most popular and widely read writers of her time, Villedieu addressed herself primarily to a female audience. As Micheline Cuénin writes in her critical edition, "[t]he novel's public is first of all women, whose natural curiosity, sentimental ups and downs, or lack of occupation led them naturally towards works of imagination and amusement." 4

By recounting the romantic adventures of the beautiful and famous during her great-grandmothers' day, Villedieu offered to her women readers, often unhappily married and perpetually pregnant, a type of fictional distraction that was just beginning to be popular in France. To women living under Louis XIV, the Wars of Religion must have appeared much as the American Civil War appears to American women today. The divisions and bitterness it had engendered, although largely laid to rest, would have been vaguely understood, and its causes, events, and leaders would have been at once legendary and familiar. In the earlier part of the century the need

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Arms and the Woman: War, Gender, and Literary Representation
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Notes xix
  • War and Memory 1
  • Arms and the Woman: The Con[tra]ception of the War Text 9
  • Notes 23
  • Works Cited 23
  • "Still Wars and Lechery": Shakespeare and the Last Trojan Woman 25
  • Notes 39
  • Works Cited 40
  • Rewriting History: Madame de Villedieu and the Wars of Religion 43
  • Notes 55
  • Works Cited 57
  • Southern Women's Diaries of Sherman's March to the Sea, 1864-1865 59
  • Notes 75
  • Works Cited 77
  • Civil Wars and Sexual Territories 80
  • Notes 95
  • Works Cited 96
  • The Women and Men of 1914 97
  • Notes 118
  • Corpus/Corps/Corpse: Writing the Body in/at War 124
  • Notes 159
  • Works Cited 164
  • May Sinclair's The Tree of Heaven: The Vortex of Feminism, the Community of War 168
  • Notes 179
  • Works Cited 182
  • Combat Envy and Survivor Guilt: Willa Cather's "Manly Battle Yarn" 184
  • Notes 201
  • Works Cited 203
  • "Seeds for the Sowing": The Diary of Käthe Kollwitz 205
  • Notes 221
  • Works Cited 223
  • A Needle with Mama's Voice: Mitsuye Yamada's Camp Notes and the American Canon of War Poetry 225
  • Notes 241
  • Feminism, the Great War, and Modern Vegetarianism 244
  • Images of Love and War in Contemporary Israeli Fiction: A Feminist Re-vision 268
  • Notes 277
  • Works Cited 280
  • Nuclear Domesticity: Sequence and Survival 283
  • Notes 299
  • "Epitaphs and Epigraphs: 'The End(s) of Man'" 303
  • Notes 319
  • Works Cited 321
  • A Bibliography of Secondary Sources 323
  • The Contributors 331
  • Index 335
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