Feminine Genealogy, Matriarchy, and Utopia in the Fairy Tale of Marie-Catherine D'aulnoy

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Abstract

With the development of a proto-capitalist economy and court society, nobles, and particularly noble women who had just one generation earlier prospered in the salons, were losing their “place” in seventeenth-century France. Through an analysis of Madame d'Aulnoy's L‘île de la Félicité, Belle-Belle, ou le Chevalier Fortuné, and L'oranger et l'abeille, I look at how d'Aulnoy creates utopic spaces based on notions of civility in order to provide a “place,” or no-place (ou-topos) for those disenfranchised nobles.

In brief, I show that within d'Aulnoy's tales are inscribed so many salon-like spaces which are structured in a matriarchal and utopic manner. The fairy tale as a genre furthermore creates “feminine genealogies” between Amazons and fairies of times past with the salon women of the first half of the seventeenth-century. At the same time that d'Aulnoy concerns herself with gender issues, she also proposes through her tales a rehabilitated model of the feudal state in which noble men and women are equal, implicitly criticizing a patriarchal monarchy. The very genre of the fairy tale, which historically legitimated the lineage of a noble family by posting a fairy at its origin, coincides with d'Aulnoy's gender and class interests.

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