Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2012

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Ungar, Steven

First Committee Member

Bourgeacq, Jacques

Second Committee Member

Racevskis, Roland

Third Committee Member

Reitz, John

Fourth Committee Member

Hanley, Sarah


I analyze how fiction and non-fiction by women challenge the legal status and social roles imposed on French and Francophone female citizens by juridical institutions and practices from the eighteenth through the late twentieth century. Through close readings, I focus on women's determination to seek equality of civil rights by denouncing the effects of the Napoleonic code which had reduced them legally to the status of minors. I argue how women novelists, in particular, have denounced social and familial inequalities in order to provide all women with access to higher education and fulfilling careers. In so doing, these writers have defied models of education that had long privileged patriarchal orders. These women also struggled against outmoded laws that made contraception and abortion illegal. I show how these writers have tried to undo the bourgeois myth of the nuclear couple by calling for consensual alliances that rehabilitate women to full equality. I conclude by noting how these texts calling for an end to patriarchal prejudice fashion alternative models of womanhood to existing laws and statutes.


iii, 292 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 164-169).


Copyright 2012 Cecile Gouard