Women and Quarrels in Early Modern France Back

One-day conference at the University of Exeter
March 18th, 2019

Confirmed speakers: Catriona Seth (University of Oxford) and Myriam Dufour-Maître (Université de Rouen)

In recent years, critical attention has recognized the influence of cultural quarrels – for instance, about the canon, about women, about the soul – in shaping early modern France (see, for example, the Agon project at Paris-IV.) A number of these disputes took women explicitly as their subject – notably the long-standing ‘querelle des femmes’ – or were provoked by women’s cultural productions (for instance, the late seventeenth-century quarrel about the novel). However, women were often discouraged from direct engagement in quarrels; indeed, such opposition was part of the arguments about women’s place in the public sphere. The philosopher, Pierre Bayle, wrote, of Marie de Gournay and the controversy surrounding the Jesuits in the wake of the assassination of Henri IV, that ‘a person of her sex should avoid this sort of quarrel’. Alternatively, if they did quarrel, they were often dismissed with the age-old topos of being ‘quarrelsome’. And yet, despite this hostility, there are examples in early modern France of women engaging in quarrels, not only about their sex, but also about matters of culture, science and religion.
This one-day conference sets out to investigate women’s roles as speaking subjects – rather than objects – in quarrels spanning the mid-sixteenth to late eighteenth centuries in France. It aims not only to bring together a series of case studies but also to think about common concerns: how did women quarrellers negotiate a hostile reception? Is the art of quarrelling gendered? Does the study of female quarrellers nuance our approach to quarrels more generally?

Topics to be addressed could include:

•Strategic use of quarrels by women
•Quarrels and self-fashioning
•Women’s quarrels with other women
•Women quarrellers and genre
•Gender and rhetoric
•Communities and group identification (inclusion/exclusion)
•Public and private quarrels
•Terminology and gender (e.g. querelleuse, bilieuse, harengères, caquet).

Papers may be given in English or French, and should last 20 minutes. Abstracts of 200-300 words should be sent to h.taylor@exeter.ac.uk by 20th July. Contributions from early-career scholars are particularly welcome.

This conference is made possible by funding from The Leverhulme Trust and is organised by Dr Helena Taylor, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in French, University of Exeter.