Challenging Gallicism: The Role of Hircan’s Anti-feminist Rhetoric in Marguerite’s Heptaméron (VII & XLIX)
AbstractWith a combination of onomastics and attention to historical detail, much debate in the study of Marguerite de Navarre‘s Heptaméron over the past 80 years (Jourda, Krailsheimer, Palermo, Cazauran, Frank, Vulcan, Chilton, etc.) has gone into attempting to identify the authentic sources behind the ten devisants that populate Marguerite‘s coterie of stranded storytellers.1 While such study has its merits, what is more crucial to understand is that each of the ten figures represents a literary/philosophical type; and, regardless of any apparent similarities with Marguerite‘s contemporaries, each is ultimately the literary/rhetorical invention of a writer with a definite literary agenda. Embodying various sixteenth-century ideologies into distinct fictional personalities, Marguerite-as-creator synergistically meshes competing ideas into what has been termed ―a polyphony of voices‖ which allow for the attainment of an eventual overarching unity through diversity. What is this collective message? Above all else, it is of course, tapping into Marguerite‘s evangelical leanings, one that seeks to redress hypocrisy and impropriety in religious worship (particularly amongst men of the cloth) and, perhaps more importantly, it attempts—entering into the querelle des femmes, of which Marguerite was a contemporary—to confront (as indicated in the first epigraph above) the accepted disparity between the sexes in Renaissance France. The current study will deal with the latter of these concerns, as it examines the role of the anti-feminist rhetoric of Marguerite‘s most brazenly Gallic character, Hircan. While it is anachronistic, procrustean, and even improper to labelMarguerite a feminist or protofeminist, she is, as asserted by respected Marguerite scholar Rouben Cholakian, ―one of the earliest to proclaim a space for the woman writer‖ (2) as well as being one who ―never misses an opportunity to point an accusatory finger at abusive and disloyal husbands and lustful men of the cloth‖ (2). What‘s more, Marguerite confronts head-on the accepted early-modern male ideologies used to justify or excuse manly misconduct, arming her feminine public with an antidote to masculine social entitlement. Written by a woman for her female contemporaries (Kathleen Llewelyn cites Cathleen Bauschatz, who ―points out [that] the phrase ̳Voylà, mes dames,‘ frequently repeated by the devisants in both the stories and the accompanying discussions, ̳implies that women are the primary audience intended by the storytellers‘ (52)), Marguerite‘s Heptaméron is decidedly meant to empower and instruct its female readership, emphasizing qualities unique to their gender (doulceur, patience, chasteté) while insisting upon a woman‘s abilities to intellectually manifest herself as man‘s equal: having ―bien de quoy se recompenser s‘il luy plaisoit.
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