Queering the Enlightenment

BookQueering the Enlightenment

Queering the Enlightenment

Kinship and gender in eighteenth-century French literature

Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment, 2021:11


November 7th, 2021

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Liminal periods in politics often serve as points in time when traditional methods and principles organizing society are disrupted. These periods of interregnum may not always result in complete social upheaval, but they do open the space to imagine social and political change in diverse forms. In Queering the Enlightenment: kinship and gender in the literature of eighteenth-century France, Tracy Rutler uncovers how numerous canonical authors of the 1730s and 40s were imagining radically different ways of organizing the masses during the early years of Louis XV’s reign. Through studies of the literature of Antoine François Prévost, Claude Crébillon, Pierre de Marivaux, and Françoise de Graffigny among others, Rutler demonstrates how the heteronormative bourgeois family’s rise to dominance in late-eighteenth-century France had long been contested within the fictional worlds of many French authors. The utopian impulses guiding the fiction studied in this book distinguish these authors as some of the most brilliant political theorists of the day. Enlightenment, for these authors, means reorienting one’s relation to power by reorganizing their most intimate relations. Using a practice of reading queerly, Rutler shows how these works illuminate the unparalleled potential of queer forms of kinship to dismantle the patriarchy and help us imagine what might eventually take its place.

Author Information

Tracy Rutler is Assistant Professor of French and Francophone Studies and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality studies at Pennsylvania State University. She is the co-creator of the Legacies of the Enlightenment project, and author of numerous articles on 18th-century French literature and theory. She specializes in queer theory, psychoanalysis, and disability studies.