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Unpicking Female Exemplarity; Or, the Usefulness of Body Stories: Reassessing Female Communal Identity in Two Early Modern French Texts

Cathy Hampton
The Modern Language Review
Vol. 102, No. 2 (Apr., 2007), pp. 381-396
DOI: 10.2307/20467284
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20467284
Page Count: 16
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Unpicking Female Exemplarity; Or, the Usefulness of Body Stories: Reassessing Female Communal Identity in Two Early Modern French Texts
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Abstract

This article examines notions of exemplary conduct in two early modern female-authored French texts dealing with reproductive illness and addressing empathetic female reading communities. Abstract exemplary qualities of heroic purity and truth-telling are celebrated in association with the chastity ideal, but also interrogated in personal narratorial testimonies willingly revealing the everyday physical constraints that hamper their dissemination and practice. Women are called to recognize their limited cognitive certainties in relation to their bodies and thus the difficulties of marrying real-life experience with these virtues. Honest story-telling allows the communities to establish a collective (feminist?) response to this impasse.

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