This article examines the discursive practices and exemplarity of Marguerite de Navarre’s Heptaméron, which appears to be in dialogue with Castiglione’s Book of the Courtier and Alain Chartier’s Belle Dame sans Mercy – which also seem to stage their own querelles des femmes. The multifaceted narratives, examples and counter-examples, and conflicting points of view presented in the Heptaméron engage with and contribute to fifteenth- and sixteenth-century debates about women, calling attention to the gendered discourses, images, and codes that essentialize, undermine, and “other” women, often putting them in impossible situations, such as those illustrated in the fourth and tenth nouvelles; both include accounts of attempted rape thought by some to have been experienced by Marguerite herself and to have motivated her to write these stories. Focusing particularly on the mirror scenes that flank the traumatic struggle at the heart of the fourth nouvelle, as well as on its aftermath (including the speech of the lady of honor who counsels the Princess to keep quiet about the incident), this study explores how different types of rhetorical devices, strategies, iconography, and intertextual references are used to call into question ways women are made responsible for the desires and behaviors of men. Ultimately, this essay finds in Marguerite de Navarre’s carefully crafted stories an invitation to reflect on the mirror of the text and to deconstruct conflicting codes, practices, ideologies, and discourses that are all too often put forward as truths about women or about “the battle of the sexes.” (246 words)


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pp. 375-392
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