Female heroes in Ancien Regime literature: Between women true by nature and the true nature of women
Women have always been the object of a dual perception, included in a male-dominated world or excluded from it according to social and religious considerations. This paper analyses the exclusion/inclusion of women in 17th and 18th century literature in France. The image of female condition in works of the end of 17th century and the end of 18th century is analysed in both theatre (as a “public” genre written for a collective reception) and novel (as an “intimate” genre written for individual reading). We can see a social exclusion of women in the 17th century, when they were considered as passionate beings forced to be tamed for the sake of their social duty. In the 18th century, they tend to be included in male world thanks to their own intelligence and natural way of being against sophisticated social behaviours. Yet, despite this victory due to a change in mentalities, women still remain in the shade of men: if classic writers imposed on women the duty to respect transcendental order, Enlightenment writers simply but thoroughly imposed them to respect natural order.