- La seconde préciosité: Floraison des conteuses de 1690 à 1756
The title of Sophie Raynard's study of the French fairy tale is indicative of her central objective: to tie the late-seventeenth- and early-eighteenth-century fairy-tale vogue to the precious movement of earlier decades. That she calls the fairy-tale vogue "second preciosity" is a strategy to firmly inscribe fairy tales authored by women within the precious movement, pointing furthermore to the continuation of this movement beyond the temporal confines literary historians traditionally have given it. Raynard carries out her objective by, on the one hand, comparing female-authored fairy tales to the tales of other precious writers, and on the other, by contrasting these tales with those written by Charles Perrault, whom Raynard decidedly characterizes as not being a precious fairy-tale writer. The first section of the book seeks to redefine preciosity, and it considers the precious context in which the French literary fairy tale emerged. Raynard then moves into a stylistic and thematic analysis of female-authored tales in order to justify their belonging to the larger precious movement. In the third section Raynard situates both preciosity and the literary fairy tale within the sociocultural context of the period, and in the fourth section she concentrates on the question of feminism.
Raynard opens her book with a discussion of the methodological problems related to defining preciosity, providing a critical overview of scholarship on the subject. Attempting to delimit what would constitute a "precious woman," Raynard concludes that one must consider the historical, social, literary, aesthetic, and political aspects of the movement in order to fully appreciate its significance within and impact on French society. Raynard then provides short biographies of all of the female authors she will consider in the book, which include Mme d'Aulnoy, Mlle L'Héritier, Mlle Bernard, Mlle de La Force, Mme de Murat, Mme Durand, Mme d'Auneuil, Mme de Lintot, Mme de Villeneuve, Mlle de Lubert, Mme L'Evêque, and Mme Leprince de Beaumont. These biographies tie the tellers to the larger precious movement from a historical perspective, taking into account relations between the conteuses and between the latter and prominent salon women and writers such as Madeleine de Scudéry, Mme de Villedieu, and Mme de Lambert. Toward the end of the section Raynard considers precious women's and women writers' connection to the Quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns, contrasting women's modernity with that of Perrault. [End Page 145]
The second part of the book is primarily a thematic and stylistic study that looks at the ways in which female-authored fairy tales could be considered precious texts. Raynard's analysis moves from more general issues, such as the importance of the art of pleasing and the "aesthetics of gentleness," to more detailed analyses of the use in precious and fairy-tale language of stylistic devices, such as adverbs ending in -ment, the superlative, hyperboles, gradation, neologisms, personification, and allegory. Raynard points out that women use the marvelous, and in particular metamorphosis, more than Perrault. While metamorphosis has multiple functions in the works of women writers, Raynard argues that Perrault uses it primarily in an ironic way that is subject to the logic of the narration. Raynard suggests that these different uses of the marvelous correspond to Perrault's more realistic approach to the genre, on the one hand, and to women writers' desire to create ideal universes in which women enjoy an improved status and there is freedom in love, on the other. Regarding the narrative structure of the tale, Raynard concentrates on the tales' endings, arguing that Perrault's happy endings revolve around material success, whereas women writers hesitate between idealism and cynicism about, in particular, happiness in marriage. Raynard then compares the values of Perrault and his female contemporaries. The values put forth in Perrault's tales revolve around social success, whereas those advanced by female authors often question traditional values and social norms, particularly as they regard women. Another main difference between...