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Daniel Maher

A Cross-Dressing Fairy Tale: The Story of the Marquise - Marquis de Banneville


The Story of the Marquise - Marquis de Banneville, a short story that appeared anonymously in the Mercure Galant in 1695, offers a “happily ever after” unlike no other that gives rise to nuanced reflections on gender, sex and sexuality in Ancien régime France. The marriage of a beautiful marquise to a handsome marquis would be banal if not for the revelation on the wedding night that, each unknown to the other, the marquise is in fact a man and the marquis a woman. The paternity (or maternity) of the tale itself is also shrouded in mystery as two recent critical editions differ radically in their attribution. Jacques Chupeau (1997) ascribes the story solely to a well-known transvestite of the time, François Timoléon, abbé de Choisy while Joan DeJean (2004) considers it to be a collaboration between de Choisy, Charles Perrault and Perrault’s niece, Marie-Jeanne l’Héritier – herself the author of a number of fairy tales. The paratext identifies the author as a woman, the narrator takes on an explicitly female voice and the ostensible target audience is comprised of young women under 20 years of age. In this paper, after a review of the question of authorship and a contextualization (using the SATOR database) particularly of men dressing as women in seventeenth-century French literature, I will look at transvestism and the representation of gender in this astoundingly rich short story.

AsK, September 2011

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