Love, Power, and Gender in Seventeenth-Century French Fairy Tales


Love, Power, and Gender in Seventeenth-Century French Fairy Tales

Bronwyn Reddan

Women and Gender in the Early Modern World Series

264 pages
1 illustration, 2 tables, 2 graphs, 6 appendixes, index


December 2020


$65.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
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December 2020


$65.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

December 2020


$65.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Love is a key ingredient in the stereotypical fairy-tale ending in which everyone lives happily ever after. This romantic formula continues to influence contemporary ideas about love and marriage, but it ignores the history of love as an emotion that shapes and is shaped by hierarchies of power including gender, class, education, and social status. This interdisciplinary study questions the idealization of love as the ultimate happy ending by showing how the conteuses, the women writers who dominated the first French fairy-tale vogue in the 1690s, used the fairy-tale genre to critique the power dynamics of courtship and marriage. Their tales do not sit comfortably in the fairy-tale canon as they explore the good, the bad, and the ugly effects of love and marriage on the lives of their heroines.

Bronwyn Reddan argues that the conteuses’ scripts for love emphasize the importance of gender in determining the “right” way to love in seventeenth-century France. Their version of fairy-tale love is historical and contingent rather than universal and timeless. This conversation about love compels revision of the happily-ever-after narrative and offers incisive commentary on the gendered scripts for the performance of love in courtship and marriage in seventeenth-century France.


Author Bio

Bronwyn Reddan is an honorary fellow in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne.


"Love, Power, and Gender in Seventeenth-Century French Fairy Tales is a notable addition to scholarship of the conteuses' literary tales and provides a multidimensional view of the gendered experience of love and of the trope of the happily-ever-after."—Adrion Dula, Journal of American Folklore

“In recent years scholars have ‘rediscovered’ the unique contributions made by women writers to the development of the literary fairy tale in France, and one of the most thorough and perceptive studies is Bronwyn Reddan’s Love, Power, and Gender in Seventeenth-Century French Fairy Tales. . . . Reddan’s superb work gives full voice to tales that are still important in our own day.”—Jack Zipes, professor emeritus of German and comparative literature at the University of Minnesota

“With this important book, Bronwyn Reddan invites us to take seriously the ways in which the seventeenth-century French fairy tales written by women revise the codes of love and gender of their day. Emotions have a complex history, and fairy tales reflect that history in great detail. Reddan urges us to reconsider our preconceptions about fairy tales, love, gender, marriage, and power. And more fundamentally, she allows us to see that a genre too often considered to be simplistic and trivial is in fact diverse and profound.”—Lewis C. Seifert, professor of French studies at Brown University

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Tables
Note on Sources and Translations
Introduction: Reimagining Fairy-Tale Love
Part 1. Formation of a Literary Emotional Community
1. The Creation of a Female Literary Community
2. A Shared Vocabulary of Love
Part 2. Conversations about Love
3. Courtship, Consent, and Declarations of Love
4. Marriage, Gift-Giving, and the Obligation of Love
5. Love after Marriage: Moral Lessons and Unhappy Endings
Conclusion: Truth Finding in Fairy Tales
Appendix 1: French Fairy Tales, 1690–1709
Appendix 2: Tales Produced by the Conteuses, 1690–1709
Appendix 3: Publication Details of the First Known Editions of the Conteuses’ Tales
Appendix 4: Publication Details of Literary Works by the Conteuses
Appendix 5: Declarations of Love by Heroes
Appendix 6: Declarations of Love by Heroines

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