Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Scudéry’s Portraits: Patriarchy, Agency, and Genre

Friday, March 24, 2023 - 3:30pm

Cohen 402

Please join us on Friday, March 24th for a colloquium featuring Allauren Forbes! 
This event will take place in 402 Claudia Cohen Hall from 3:30- 5:00pm, with a reception to follow. This event will additionally be accessible via Zoom. For the link, please contact the department administrator at
Title: “Scudéry’s Portraits: Patriarchy, Agency, and Genre”
Abstract: In the ongoing project of recovering and (re)integrating early modern European women philosophers, scholars have been re-examining not only who counts as a philosopher, but what kinds of works are properly understood as philosophical. Madeleine de Scudéry is best remembered as a novelist, but some scholars have argued that her dialogues are richly philosophical. Here, I examine an early and overlooked text from Scudéry – Illustrious Women – which is a collection of speeches of historical women who find themselves in dire circumstances. I argue that Illustrious Women offers a sophisticated critique of patriarchal power: Scudéry exposes the conflict between epistemic and practical agency under conditions of gendered oppression and illustrates specific manifestations of this harm concerning control, autonomy, and consent. In so doing, particularly through the genre of oratory, Scudéry’s Illustrious Women is both a work of 17th century feminist resistance and a subversive educational tool.
CW: mentions of suicide and rape