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Gender and power: Representations of dido in French tragedy, 1558-1673.

Vedrenne, Laetitia (2009) Gender and power: Representations of dido in French tragedy, 1558-1673. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis examines five French tragedies dealing with the same legendary character, Dido, throughout a century: Etienne Jodelle's Didon se sacrifiant (cI558), Alexandre Hardy's Didon se sacrifiaht (1624), Georges de Scudéry's Didon (1637), François de Boisrobert's La Vraye Didon (1643) and Antoine Jacob Montfleury's L'Ambigii comique (1673). The interest of this study lies in the fact that, if Dido is a recurrent character, yet she is one of a very rare breed of female characters on the French stage: ruling queens. The tragedies and, in particular, the character of Dido are examined in relation to the evolution of literary trends and the historical and socio-political context in which they were produced. The playwrights and their works are first looked at specifically with an aim to put them in context: the authors are considered in relation to literary and socio-political history, while each play is put in context within the complete works of the author. Dido is a ruling queen, which is rare on stage and a reflection of the rarity of women ruling over Early Modem France, it is therefore important to consider the contemporary institutions, practices and discourses on women, with specific references to the moralist controversy. The analysis of women in power over the time period covered by this study, including Catherine de Medici, Maria de Medici and Anne of Austria, provides the reader with the essential background and issues relating to the representation of female power on stage. To complete the contextualisation of the five tragedies, a detailed analysis of the other rare instances of ruling queens in French tragedy helps establish patterns of representation for women in power, such as the key use of men, the 'people' and queens themselves as crucial threats to the integrity of the realm. The analysis of Dido tragedies focuses on two axis: first a linguistic approach to the definition of gender and power deals with gendered rhetoric, the gender specific approach to furor, that is to say the loss of power, and the expression of guilt and innocence. The second axis of the analysis focuses on material representations of power on stage: firstly, the references to and/or use of symbolic objects such as crowns, thrones, sceptres, swords or jewels help identify the characters which are truly powerful. Finally, the analysis of the references to and/or use names and titles on stage to identify the protagonists is also used to reveal the actual power dynamic created by the playwrights. The conclusion looks at the mixed success of the plays in Early Modem France and their absence from literary canons in modem France while keeping in mind the issues on gender and power.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:2009
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:08 Sep 2011 18:23

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