Madness in Twentieth-Century French Women’s Writing

Leduc, Duras, Beauvoir, Cardinal, Hyvrard

by Suzanne Dow (Author)
©2009 Monographs X, 207 Pages
Series: Modern French Identities, Volume 76


This book offers a discussion of the trope of madness in twentieth-century French women’s writing, focusing on close readings of the following texts: Violette Leduc’s L’Asphyxie (1946), Marguerite Duras’s Le Ravissement de Lol V. Stein (1964), Simone de Beauvoir’s ‘La Femme rompue’ (1967), Marie Cardinal’s Les Mots pour le dire (1975), Jeanne Hyvrard’s Les Prunes de Cythère (1975) and Mère la mort (1976). The discussion traces the evolution in the way madness is taken up by women authors from the key period starting just prior to the emergence of second-wave feminism and culminating at the height of the écriture féminine project. This study argues that madness offers itself up to these authors as a powerful means to convey a certain ambivalence towards changing contemporary ideas on the authority of authorship. On the one hand a highly enabling means to figure transgression, the madwoman is equally the repository for a twentieth-century ‘anxiety of authorship’ on the part of the woman writer.


X, 207
ISBN (Softcover)
authorship Feminism Ambivalence anxiety
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2009. X, 207 pp.

Biographical notes

Suzanne Dow (Author)

The Author: Suzanne Dow studied French literature to doctoral level at St Hilda’s College and subsequently St John’s College, Oxford University. She has taught twentieth-century literature, with a particular focus on women’s writing, at the University of Oxford and at the Ecole Normale Supérieure Lettres et sciences humaines, Lyon. She is currently lecturer in French at the University of Nottingham.


Title: Madness in Twentieth-Century French Women’s Writing