The curious history of the first French literary fairy tale: d’Aulnoy’s feminist “utopia” in L’Histoire d’Hypolite , comte de Duglas (1690)
This paper explores the publication history of an early utopia in seventeenth-century French literature. Specifically, it considers representations of female sexuality and performative gender in Mme d'Aulnoy's "Ile de la felicte" and d'Aulnoy's use of classical notions of utopian societies to critique gender norms. The paper argues that d'Aulnoy's utopia is not a feminist paradise as it is often represented, but is instead a tool with which d'Aulnoy both upholds and critiques seventeenth century values concerning female agency, and power. It thus argues for a more nuanced perspective on the societal and sexual desires of women in the seventeenth century, and how a singular utopian ideal cannot exist. The paper will discuss the function of classical utopias and contrast these functions against d'Aulnoy's subversive rhetoric use, ultimately exploring the complex ways d'Aulnoy's texts interact with her readers, and highlighting the plurality of utopias as an egalitarian concept.