Women’s Individuation in the Works of Pierrette Fleutiaux
Anne sans le savoir a ouvert pour moi les fenêtres.
Anne, without knowing it, opened the windows for me.
— PIERRETTE FLEUTIAUX1
Through an exploration of representations of women’s individuation in the works of Pierrette Fleutiaux, this study has revisited the question ‘What is a woman?’ Fleutiaux’s fictions can be read as a complex response to concerns in recent feminist theory and contemporary French women’s writing about the increasingly abstract and fragmented pictures of womanhood and the portrayals of women as being to various degrees isolated, lost, or in the process of disintegrating. Drawing on the philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir in Le Deuxième sexe and the psychology of Carl Jung, an alternative, more liberating picture of historically situated, embodied, individuating women has been examined in Fleutiaux’s intricate treatments of questions pertaining to women’s personhood, and in particular the ongoing inner and outer liberation of the white western bourgeois intellectual woman.
Set against Beauvoir’s case studies, Fleutiaux’s representations reveal the gains and losses that women have experienced in the decades since the publication of Le Deuxième sexe. Beneficiaries of feminist achievements in law, education, intellectual development and financial independence, the women in Fleutiaux’s texts enjoy greater freedom in their external circumstances than their predecessors, yet nonetheless experience anxiety, a sense of alienation, problematic mother–daughter relationships and tensions with their romantic partners. Although Beauvoir’s call for concrete external freedom for women has in many ways been fulfilled,...
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