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Nancy M. Arenberg

Textual Transvestism analyzes the flourishing of imitative versions of Heloise’s and Abelard’s love correspondence in the late 17th and 18th centuries. Current theoretical approaches on epistolarity, narratology, cultural, feminist and gender studies have been used to focus on the various transformations (rewriting, adapting, veiling, fragmenting) of Heloise’s epistles, mainly in the hands of male writers. I employ close textual analysis to investigate how the multiple (re)visions of her epistolary discourse and persona over two hundred years might have been indicative of, and helped construct, ideological changes in expectations concerning the role of women. The scope of this study is relevant, but not limited, to seventeenth- and eighteenth-century French Studies, especially since it explores contemporary cultural issues such as sexual discourse and gender construction throughout the nine chapters. In an age where women’s roles are shifting constantly, this project is especially germane because it traces historical roots of gender redefinition within French culture.