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Illusion and the Absent Other in Madame Riccoboni's «Lettres de mistriss Fanni Butlerd»


Wendy C. Doucette

This is the first in-depth study of Marie-Jeanne Riccoboni's 1757 best-seller, the Lettres de mistriss Fanni Butlerd. In her feminist denunciation of male privilege and social injustice, Riccoboni's heroine emerges not as a passive victim, but as an aggressive correspondent intent on directing the course of her romance. This book examines Riccoboni's skillful manipulation of the spatial, psychological, and linguistic interplay between presence, absence, and illusion, the paradoxical presence of absence, and the pseudo-magical power of the epistolary medium to meld reality and illusion via linguistic incantation. The heroine's forced return to reality, the confrontation and rupture between the imaginary and the actual lover, and the novel's self-perpetuating closure result in a stunning psychological victory and a textual tour de force.