Madeleine De Scudéry - Works

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Her lengthy novels, such as Artamène, ou le Grand Cyrus (10 vols., 1648–53), Clélie (10 vols., 1654–61), Ibrahim, ou l'illustre Bassa (4 vols., 1641), Almahide, ou l'esclave reine (8 vols., 1661-3) were the delight of Europe, commended by other literary figures such as Madame de Sévigné. Artamène, which contains about 2.1 million words, ranks as one of the longest novels ever written. These stories derive their length from endless conversations and, as far as incidents go, successive abductions of the heroines, conceived and told decorously. Contemporary readers also enjoyed these novels because they gave a glimpse into the life of important society figures. These figures were often disguised as Persian, Greek, Roman warriors and maidens.

Les Femmes Illustres (1642) addresses itself to women and defends education, rather than the beauty or cosmetic, as a means of social mobility for women. This text was a means to justify women's participation in rhetoric and literary culture. It uses women speakers as models for the speeches, including Cleopatra of Egypt.

In Les Femmes Illustres (1642), Conversations Sur Divers Sujets (1680), and Conversations Nouvelles sur Divers Sujets, Dediees Au Roy (1684), Madeleine de Scudéry adapted classical rhetorical theory from Cicero, Quintilian, Aristotle, and the sophists to a theory of salon conversation and letter writing. Scudéry's Conversations Sur Divers Sujets, included dialogues covering "Conversation," "The Art of Speaking," "Raillery," "Invention," and "The Manner of Writing Letters." This text offers the rhetoric of salon conversation and model scenarios where women take intellectual control of the conversation.

Other works devoted to conversations, pertaining to the education of women include: "The Slave Queen" (1660), "Mathilda of Aguilar, a Spanish Tale," (1667), and "The Versailles Promenade, or the Tale of Celanire" (1669). These covered the art of speaking, invention, the manner of writing letters, and scenarios where women had control of the intellectual conversation.

Scudéry's novels are usually set in the classical world or the Orient, but their language and action reflect fashionable ideas of the 17th century, and the characters can be identified with Mademoiselle de Scudéry's contemporaries. In Clélie, Herminius represents Paul Pellisson; Scaurus and Lyriane were Paul Scarron and his wife (who became Mme de Maintenon); and in the description of Sapho in vol. 10 of Le Grand Cyrus the author paints herself.

In Clélie, Scudéry invented the famous Carte de Tendre, a map of an Arcadia where the geography is all based around the theme of love: the river of Inclination flows past the villages of "Billet Doux" (Love Letter), "Petits Soins" (Little Trinkets) and so forth. Scudéry was a skilled conversationalist; several volumes purporting to report her conversations upon various topics were published during her lifetime. She had a distinct vocation as a pedagogue. She could moralize—a favourite employment of the time—with sense and propriety.

Controversial in her own era, Mademoiselle de Scudéry was satirized by Molière in his plays Les Précieuses ridicules (1659) and Les Femmes savantes (1672) and by Antoine Furetière in his Roman Bourgeois (1666).

The 19th century German writer E.T.A. Hoffmann wrote what is usually referred to as the first German-language detective story, featuring Scudéry as the central figure. "Das Fräulein von Scuderi" (Mademoiselle de Scudery) is still widely read today, and is the origin of the "Cardillac syndrome" in psychology.

Read more about this topic:  Madeleine De Scudéry

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