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Male and Female Roles in the Eighteenth Century

The Challenge to Replacement and Displacement in the Novels of Isabelle de Charrière

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Kathleen Jaeger

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.