A contemporary of the French
philosophes and in subtle dialogue with them, Isabelle de Charrière weaves a compelling novelistic framework that intrigues readers of women's writing. This study focuses on novels by the 18th-century Charrière writing in francophone Switzerland. It explores her determination to dehierarchize the positions of male and female in 18th-century society and to reject the conventional ideal of human destiny. The study simultaneously traces the transition from an Ancien Régime concept of self, particularly the female self, to a Romantic conception of the individual and modern individualism through the evolution of character. In order to present new conclusions, it considers Charrière's novels within a «feminine tradition» dating from the 17th century and also in the light of current French feminist theory.