Competing Selves in Madame de Lafayette's La Princesse de Montpensier and the Nouvelle Historique

in Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques
Nupur Patel University of Oxford, UK

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This article analyzes the different selves operating in Madame de Lafayette's La Princesse de Montpensier. Contrary to scholarship, which tends to position the text as a mere precursor of La Princesse de Clèves, it is in La Princesse de Montpensier where one first locates the interior. Lafayette presented a princess coming to terms with her identity, debating with different selves against a backdrop of social, historical, and political ideals. The nouvelle historique was central to the development of selves; it was an important medium through which Lafayette could perceive, explore, and contest a woman's identity in relation to society. The genre also enabled writers to examine themselves. Lafayette used it to test out her own authorial self and locate her place in the literary sphere.

Contributor Notes

Nupur Patel is a third-year DPhil student in Medieval and Modern Languages at the University of Oxford. Having completed her BA Hons in History and French, followed by an MSt in Medieval and Modern Languages (French), she began her DPhil in late 2018. Her doctoral research considers the ways in which four sixteenth-century French women writers respond to modesty in their printed works. Though the concept of modesty is often gendered as feminine and deployed by male writers, supposedly to protect young women, these women writers may reclaim modesty differently; they may also benefit from male and female networks of collaboration that justify their immodest positions in print. Email:

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