Rococo Fiction in France 1600-1715

Allison Stedman

Seditious Frivolity

258 pages
ISBN 9781611484366

Rococo Fiction in France reconfigures the history of the "long eighteenth century" by revealing the rococo as a literary phenomenon that characterized a range of experimental texts from the end of the French Renaissance to the eve of the French Revolution. Tracing the literary rococo's evolution from the late 1500s to the early 1700s, and exploring its radicalization during the 1670s, 80s, and 90s, Allison Stedman unearths the seventeenth century rococo's counter-vision for the trajectory of the French monarchy and the dawn of the French Enlightenment.

The first part of the study investigates the relationship between Montaigne's philosophy of literary production and those of early seventeenth century "table-talk" novelists, libertine writers, and playwrights involved in the quarrel over Corneille's play Le Cid. She thus establishes the existence of a rococo philosophy of literary production whose goal was to innovate, to bring pleasure, and to create communities. The second part of the study explores the impact that the Duchess de Montpensier's literary portrait galleries, Jean Donneau de Visé's periodical the Mercure Galant, and other forms of rococo literary production - by such authors as Charles Sorel, Alcide de Saint-Maurice, J.N. de Parvial and Jean de Préchac - had in the creation of a textually mediated social sphere that served as the foundation of the publicly critical culture of the French Enlightenment. The study concludes with an investigation of the influx of salon sociability into the textually mediated social sphere during the 1690s. Stedman examines the role of interpolated literary fairy tales, proverb plays and other rococo publication strategies - in such late seventeenth-century women writers as d'Aulnoy, Lhéritier, Murat, and Durand - in transfiguring the salon from an exclusive social circle mediated by physical presence to an inclusive social diaspora mediated by texts. Rococo Fiction in France challenges established views of early modern French literary history and discusses a range of little known works in a generous and engaging manner.

Visit the Bucknell University Press blog to read an interview with author Allison Stedman.


"By focusing on innovative publishing strategies and texts celebrating individual creativity rather than absolutist values, the author reinvigorates the field of early modern studies."

--Choice 50.10 (June 2013). Selected as one of Choice's"Outstanding Academic Titles of 2013"

"This thought-provoking study aims to rehabilitate a branch of French prose writing that has been traditionally overlooked or treated with disdain."

--Perry Gethner, Oklahoma State University; French Forum Winter 2014 Vol. 39, No. 1

"The book succeeds in its aim to "open up the field of early modern French studies to a greater receptiveness to this compendium-resistant trend in literary creation and publication" (4). Stedman has provided a valuable conceptual toolbox with which to excavate this rich vein of neglected literary innovation."

--Ellen R. Welch, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Symposium: A Quarterly Journal in Modern Literatures, vol. 68 issue 4 (Dec. 2014)

"A fascinating study that opens up and complicates our understanding of the literary field of seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century France, Rococo Fiction traces the literary rococo as it evolves from its origins in the work of Montaigne to the works of fairy-tale writers at the turn of the century."

--Anne E. Duggan, Wayne State University, Eighteenth-Century Fiction (2015)

About the author:

Allison Stedman is associate professor of French and associate chair of the Department of Languages and Cultural Studies at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. She has published articles on early modern French literary portraits, psalm paraphrases, novels, and fairy tales, as well as on pedagogical strategies for teaching French and Italian literature and culture at the university level. With Perry Gethner, she is the co-editor and translator of A Trip to the Country by Henriette-Julie de Castelnau, Comtesse de Murat. This is her first book.


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