Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > I am myself the matter of my book: Gender, Friendship, and Writing in Hélisenne de Crenne and Marie de Gournay
pdf

The framework of early modern gender wars situates androgyny, intersexuality, and transgender phenomena as powerful yet risky, eminent yet subversive, symbols in early modern discourse. Hélisenne de Crenne and Marie de Gournay manipulate and transform iconic genders in early modern French culture, rewriting masculinist friendship traditions and reproductive imperative. These authors evoke the intersexuality with which their culture is obsessed in order to present the reality of fluctuating notions of sexe and gender. In her Angoysses douloureuses qui procèdent d'amours (1538) and Epîtres familières et invectives (1539) Hélisenne de Crenne detaches gender from the sexed body and represents multiple masculinities, from effeminate men to hypervirile men to virile women. In her Proumenoir de M. de Montaigne qui traite de l'amour dans l'oeuvre de Plutarque (1594), Les Advis ou Les présens de la demoiselle de Gournay (1639), and her multiple prefaces to Montaigne's Essais (1595-1641) Marie de Gournay argues the cause of women and challenges misogynistic conceptions of female intellectual incapacity by forming notions of family that, like Michel de Montaigne's literary progeny, work outside the bounds of sexed bodies and the institution of marriage. Marie de Gournay and Hélisenne de Crenne use transgendered literary personae to work within and through the boundaries of friendship, gender, and love in early modern France. Through textual dialogues about (female) sexuality, friendship, gender, and writing that are queer in their subversions of gender-based conceptions of textual generation, these authors participate subversively in the Querelle des femmes. These two women produce proto-feminist arguments by detaching masculinity from the male body, by entering male literary realms through masculine personae, and by feminizing the masculinist literary traditions popular in early modern France.